HomeWorld'At breaking point': Tibetans, under lockdown, make rare cry for help

‘At breaking point’: Tibetans, under lockdown, make rare cry for help

Infected patients were quarantined along with those who tested negative. Even after repeated requests, food is not available for hours. Queues of buses laden with people are waiting till late in the night to drop them at temporary isolation centres.

These are the scenes described by residents of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, which has been locked down for a month as officials try to stop one. coronavirus the outbreak.

Lockdowns have become almost commonplace, including across cities in China, which is bent on eliminating the coronavirus, while the rest of the world tries to live with it. But recently Tibet as well as Xinjiang – two border areas where the Chinese government has imposed highly repressive controls – have been asked for help in what has become a depressing situation where many residents are usually told to remain silent. is threatened.

Yet even the encouragement of fasting and silent discontent for the authorities is stronger than usual. The Chinese Communist Party is set to hold a major political meeting next month, where its leader Xi Jinping is almost certain to extend his term. In the run-up, it is important for officials to ensure that the effort to achieve “zero-COVID”, which Xi declared a personal priority, appears to be smooth and successful.

The result is a vicious cycle. The authorities have put in place strict quarantine and censorship rules. They, in turn, create more difficulties and dissatisfaction.

“The social media posts you see from people in Lhasa are all about suffering, but this is the real Lhasa. Public announcements from Lhasa, I think they are all fake,” said a food delivery worker in the city , who only gave his surname Min for fear of official retaliation.

The government has promoted positive videos of officers encouraging frontline workers and promising adequate supplies of food and medicine. But Min said he was left with five family members in an unfinished apartment building, even though he had not tested positive. Activists said they could be released if their latest test on September 10 also came back negative – but it had been days with no word on the result.

While he waited, officials sent another man into quarantine to join his family, as they were all Hui ethnic minorities, Min said. But the man said that he has tested positive. Min said he could only wear two masks and try to keep a distance.

Restrictions are being tightened across China. Last week, the central government announced that the entire country, even areas with no cases, would be required to mandate regular testing of all residents through October. Millions of people have been put on lockdown in recent weeks. The capital Beijing is on high alert after several dozen cases were detected in recent days.

However, the lockdown in Tibet and Xinjiang is standing to be stretched for more than a month. Lhasa – home to about 900,000 people, about 70% of whom are ethnically Tibetan – began ordering some areas to shut down, after a handful of infections were discovered on 8 August, with restrictions soon spreading across the city. Went. Yining, a city in the northwestern part of Xinjiang, has also been under restrictions since early August.

The shutdowns garnered relatively little attention at first compared to larger cities such as Shanghai and Chengdu, whose lockdowns dominated Chinese social media this year. But in recent days, as the controls show no sign of easing, residents have launched an online campaign to draw attention to their plight. Some have tagged state media outlets in hopes of attracting official coverage. Others have attached unrelated trending hashtags, such as an actor accused of hiring prostitutes.

An undated photo provided by Wen Yan of his quarantine facility in Lhasa, Tibet. (Wen Yan via The New York Times)-

Perhaps most notably, the tone of voice also includes ethnic Tibetans – a group that can face sharp repercussions for any criticism of the government. Under Xi’s leadership, officials in Tibet – a part of China officially known as the Tibetan Autonomous Region – have long sought to assimilate ethnic Tibetans through resettlement programs, political preaching and action on their language. efforts have been intensified.

According to translations from the Tibet Action Institute, a foreign activist group supporting Tibetan independence, on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, some residents have shared videos in Tibetan that describe being unable to work or pay rent. has been done. A man filming himself in a vehicle said that he had been sleeping in his car for a month. A woman begged for permission to return to her village elsewhere in Tibet, describing her concern about running out of food.

Lhadon Tethong, director of the Tibet Action Institute, said she was stunned by the influx of Tibetan voices this week, compared to earlier reports.

“They are these straight cries for help from inside that we don’t see anymore,” she said. “So we know they’re at breaking point.”

Many videos have been removed. In the video of the woman asking to go home – no longer available online – she insisted she was not protesting. On Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, a user whose post about Lhasa’s lockdown was shared more than 6,000 times, later reposted it again thanking users for commenting on government accounts to raise awareness Gaya, but asked them to stop tagging him. “The risks of speaking up are really high,” she wrote. “I’m panicking.”

The zero-tolerance approach of the Lhasa authorities has also decimated Han Chinese, the country’s dominant ethnicity.

Wen Yan, 30, said she, her boyfriend and four roommates were ordered into centralized quarantine on Monday, although their latest test results were negative. They boarded an ambulance around 4 pm, but were not dropped off at the quarantine center – another unfinished apartment complex – until after 7. In the apartment, the bathroom was flooded.

They were not given any food; A worker said they had arrived too late, Wayne said. Around midnight, her boyfriend and another man demanded food from some workers. They were beaten up, she said, providing photos of their injuries.

Wen also shared his photos on Weibo, where they were shared thousands of times. The next day, an official at her quarantine facility asked her to be removed, but she refused.

“If these posts don’t exist, nobody cares,” she said. “I won’t remove them because they are all true.”

Things remain dire for some in Xinjiang, home to many ethnic Uighurs, as well as Yining. The plight of residents there, who have reported shortages of food and female sanitary napkins, remained largely unknown until a recent storm of social media pleas. Last week, local officials apologized for residents’ difficulties accessing medical care.

Halipa, a mother of two in the city, said authorities had given meat and naan in recent days – the first time she had eaten meat in three weeks. But she still couldn’t buy the fruit and was worried that the lack of nutrition had weakened her children’s immune systems. Both had fever this month.

The Yining government has said it is gradually reopening the city. But Halipa said there was no indication that the steel locks that kept residents inside their apartment building were being removed.

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