An opinion leader on China's Twitter-like Weibo was taken to court after joking about the heroic self-sacrifice of a Chinese war martyr.
Sun Jie, a famous micro-blogger called Zuoyeben who has 8.73 million followers on his Weibo account, published a post in 2013 that said: "Because Qiu Shaoyun was lying in the fire and didn't move, diners refused to pay for the half-done and half-rare barbeque and preferred roasted Lai Ning".
The post, which was later deleted by the micro-blogger, was commented hundreds of times within eight minutes after it was published on May 22, 2013.
Chinese soldier Qiu Shaoyun died in the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-1953) in October 1952 after being struck by a fire bomb during an ambush. Qiu, 26, remained motionless until he died, even though his body was on fire, so as not to reveal his location and win the battle.
Lai Ning, 15, was awarded the title heroic juvenile after dying having volunteered to help fight a devastating forest fire for four to five hours.
Sun's post created an outcry on the Internet with many users protesting and saying that war heroes such as Qiu deserve the respect of the nation.
"The joke was inappropriate and wrong and I shouldn't have done it," apologized Sun in a post in April this year.
Feeling the apology isn't sincere enough, Qiu Shaohua, the brother of the war martyr, filed a lawsuit of defamation at Beijing Daxing District People's Court, which started its investigation on June 30.
Sun isn't the only one joking about dead war heroes, and some even question the authenticity of their behavior.
A military school student reportedly told his instructor in March that it was physically impossible for Qiu to lie still in a fire, a claim that was rebutted by many who said well-trained soldiers can withstand anything.
Also as early as August 2013, an Internet user surnamed Zhang in Guangzhou was detained for seven days for spreading rumors about five martyr soldiers jumping off a cliff to cover the retreat route of fellow troops in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).
In 2004, a college student alleged that a heroic deed of Chinese soldier Huang Jiguang was fabricated to encourage soldiers to maintain morale. In 1952, during the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea, Huang blocked enemy fire with his chest to run down the enemy's ammunition and seize a strategically important place at the expense of his life.
Also, in April 2013, a web celebrity called Qinhuohuo spread rumors about Chinese role model Lei Feng saying the young soldier, who earned only 6 yuan ($0.97) per month, bought himself 90 yuan worth of clothes in 1959. Lei was named a national role model by China's late leader Mao Zedong in 1963 for his whole-hearted service when and where needed after he died in the line of duty in 1962 when he was 22.
China's State news agency Xinhua published a story in June refuting rumors against Liu Hulan alleging that the martyr was the mistress of a company commander of the Chinese Red Army. Liu was beheaded when she was only 15 after being betrayed by a traitor in 1947 during the war of Liberation (1946-49).
The same month Xinhua refuted rumors about Dong Cunrui who lifted a package of explosives with his left hand and pulled the fuse with his right to demolish an enemy blockhouse, which helped the liberation army progress during a battle of the war of Liberation. Some falsely claimed the 19-year-old's heroic deed was pure imagination because nobody actually saw it.
Some experts blame the questioning of war martyrs' authenticity on China's failed hero or role model education system in which martyrs were portrayed as spotless, self-sacrificing saints, while others blame insufficient regulation of the Internet for false accusations about respected heroes.