(TibetanReview.net, Sep14’21) – Chinese president Xi Jinping has sent a letter of encouragement to a battalion of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the Communist Party of China stationed in occupied Tibet close to India’s border. He offered his greetings and encouraged the troops of this model battalion to guard the country’s borders well and make new contributions to the Party and the people, reported China’s official globaltimes.cn Sep 13.
Unit 77656 – which was named by Xi as a “”Model Battalion in Defending China’s Frontiers on the Plateau” in 2016 for its “outstanding performance in safeguarding borders” – is based at one of the points of contention in China’s sometimes deadly stand-off with India.
“Troop 77656 is now titled as a ‘model plateau battalion’ for its outstanding performance in safeguarding borders, ensuring stability and helping disaster relief,” the PTI news agency Sep 13 cited China’s state-run Xinhua news agency as having said earlier in a report in Aug 2016.
The only other unit of the PLA honoured in 2016 was Navy Submarine 372, cited as a “model submarine” for its excellent performance in marine missions, noted a hindustantimes.com report Sep 13.
Xi’s greetings and encouragement was reported to have come in response to an update sent by the unit on its activities over the past five years.
State broadcaster CCTV described the unit as “heroic” for faithfully performing its duties in the harsh conditions, noted the scmp.com Sep 14.
The troops are stated to be stationed 4,800 metres (15,748 feet) above sea level where temperatures can fall to minus 40 degrees Centigrade and extreme wind speeds are recorded for most of the year.
The globaltimes.cn reported cited a previous official China Tibet News report as saying the battalion was stationed at the highest altitude among all PLA battalions.
The scmp.com report cited previous Chinese reports as saying the unit was based in Shigatse city’s Gangba county, close to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China has South Tibet and therefore a part of its territory.
Unit 77656, under the watch of the Tibet Military District under Western Theatre Command, joined 10 other combat units in late August for an operational drill on a Himalayan peak, seen by military observers as a warning to India, the report noted.
The reports quoted Xi’s letter as urging the unit to “faithfully perform your duties in defending the country and the border and strive to make new achievements for the party and the people”.