China enforces containment measures as COVID cases surge in Xinjiang and Tibet — Radio Free Asia

A sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Xinjiang has led the Chinese government to send a delegation across the far western region to implement controversial zero COVID policies, further isolating residents.

Xinjiang recorded 2,779 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Xinjiang on Wednesday, with officials in the capital Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi) designating 73 high-risk districts and imposing strict exit and entry controls due of the growing number of infections, China News Service reported.

Now officials there are administering a new Chinese drug called “A Ci Fu” to fight the virus, though the drug’s effectiveness remains unknown, sources said.

Beijing has sent a special task force to the region, with Ma Xingrui, secretary of the Chinese Communist Party of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), visiting Ghulja (Yining), Chochek (Tacheng), Bortala (Bole), Sanji (Changji), Turpan (Tulufan) and Qumul (Hami) from August 13 to 16.

Erkin Tuniyaz, a Chinese politician of Uighur descent who is the current chairman of XUAR, visited Kashgar (Kashgar) during the same period.

The two officials oversaw the implementation of mass testing and lockdowns to contain respiratory virus outbreaks.

In Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Ili in northern Xinjiang, Ma stressed the need to implement Chinese President Xi Jinping’s instructions on epidemic prevention and control and stressed the need for urgency. . He called for delineating risk areas and implementing detailed prevention and control measures, as well as increasing screening and accelerating the construction of makeshift hospitals, Chinese media reported.

But Uyghurs said lockdowns put in place to contain COVID were causing their own problems.

For example, a resident of Turpan told RFA that farmers are unable to pick their grapes, leaving the fruits to rot in the fields and causing huge financial losses.

“We’re sorry,” he said. “We really hope that this pandemic will pass soon, so that we can safely pick our grapes and hang them in drying racks. »

A Uyghur on Douyin, the Chinese version of the shortened video-sharing app TikTok, said many people in affected areas cannot afford food because they cannot work. Food prices have also risen due to the shutdowns, the source said.

A police official in Hudiyayuzi Township, Ghulja County, said officials were instructed to warn residents to be careful what they say or believe regarding the COVID outbreak.

“We will investigate and arrest those who are spreading rumours,” the officer said.

William Nee, research and advocacy coordinator at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, told RFA on Monday that the closures were likely particularly difficult for Uyghurs in Xinjiang given the isolation many were already living in.

People in Shanghai endured a three-month lockdown. But those confined to apartments could at least communicate their plight to the outside world via cellphones or through social media. Chinese repression in Xinjiang does not give Uyghurs a similar outlet.

“We have much less knowledge about how zero COVID policies affect people,” he said, adding that he had seen a video recorded by a Han Chinese woman in Kashgar showing the city to be deadly quiet.

“I’m sure she could take that risk without any problem, but if a Uyghur produced this type of video, I’m sure he would be detained on some pretext,” Nee said. “So one of the difficulties is that any negative ramifications of the zero-COVID policy affecting Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities would be that they [are] reluctant to share [information] because it could be considered a political offence.

A lab technician works at a COVID-19 testing facility in Lhasa, capital of western China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, August 9, 2022. Credit: CNS/AFP

Tourists stranded in Tibet

The number of COVID-19 cases is also on the rise in the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

The region recorded 2,911 confirmed cases on Wednesday, 742 more than was reported on Tuesday, according to an official tally.

“People are under continuous testing,” said a Tibetan living in the capital Lhasa. “The Potala Palace and other religious places sites are closed, schools have postponed their reopening and people are stock up on groceries and buy face masks.

Tens of thousands of Chinese tourists stranded in the capital Lhasa and in the cities of Shigatse (Xigaze) and Ngari (Ali) are trying to leave Tibet.

On Tuesday, the TAR Transportation Department announced that those leaving the region by plane or train must take two COVID tests within 24 hours of departure and have a certificate indicating negative results.

A local Tibetan told RFA that resources for testing and preventing the virus were running out due to the high number of Chinese tourists there.

Nee said the video of workers spraying disinfectants on Tibet’s roads had no scientific basis as being an effective way to prevent the coronavirus, and only served a performative purpose to trick people into thinking officials were doing everything. their possible in terms of political zero-COVID to please Xi Jinping.

Although the number of cases has increased in Tibetan cities in recent days, airports in the region, including Lhasa Gonggar Airport, have remained open and the influx of tourists has continued unrestricted.

“During previous COVID outbreaks, the Chinese government did not stop tourists from entering Tibet because Tibetans were concerned,” said another Tibetan from Lhasa. “Now that COVID outbreaks are on the rise and the The situation remains uncertain, we are worried about its evolution in the coming days.

Earlier this week, a Chinese official in Lhasa issued a notice warning residents not to share any COVID-related news or information on social media.

Translated by Mamatjan Juma and Alim Seytoff for RFA Uyghur, and Kalden Lodoe and Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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