Beijing has been sending troops and paramilitary police to guard frontier regions in the restive northwestern province of Xinjiang, where they have been used to quell unrest and muzzle dissidents.
For instance, Kashgar – a prefecture bordering Kyrgyzstan populated by Uighur and other Islamic people – has been heavily fortified with extra troops and other personnel. It reportedly has an infantry division of 15,000 troops.
China’s armed police force, absorbed into the command and control of the People’s Liberation Army last year, also has a sizable barracks there.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s propaganda apparatus has been heaping praise on servicemen in Xinjiang, who were told this month that they had to stay on over the week-long Chinese New Year break.
Yet editors who worked on a recent report by The Paper, a Shanghai-based news outlet, have been hit with a hail of ridicule after posting a video clip featuring bare-bellied police constables bracing the cold and honing their combat skills in a snowfield near the provincial city of Kashgar.
What first caught the eyes of readers was the headline: “Troops dripping with sweat during training under -20 degrees.”
Citizens were amazed that a person could drip with sweat in a freezing chill, when drops of water would turn into ice almost instantly.
They also sounded unimpressed by the sight of some plump police, stripped to their waists, shivering in the biting wind when doing push-ups with their bare hands in the snow.
“They should have picked someone in better shape who were better able to withstand the cold, for the sake of propaganda,” a netizen jeered in one post, which suggested the training served no substantial, tactical purpose.
“It appears to me that these chaps spend most of their time indoors and look more like bureaucrats than constables … they are struggling to adapt to the chill. Guess it was their first ‘snowfield training’ and they did it simply for the sake of filming a propaganda clip,” another reader wrote.