Residents of a city in China’s far-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region say they are running out of food after more than 40 days under a strict coronavirus lockdown.
In posts shared on Chinese social media and platforms such as TikTok and Twitter, Ghulja residents showed empty refrigerators and hungry children. Others were in tears as they recounted their experiences during the lockdown that began in early August.
China remains committed to its ‘zero coronavirus’ policy, requiring entire communities to remain confined to their homes for extended periods of time, provided with food supplies and undergoing regular testing.
The blockade in Ghulja has also sparked accusations that the mostly Muslim Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group from Xinjiang, are being targeted.
China operates a network of detention centers and prisons in the region, detaining about one million Uyghurs and other mainly Muslims in a system that the United Nations said could constitute “crimes against humanity.” Beijing is accused of detaining Muslim minorities. vocational training center We need to deal with “extremism”.
Previous lockdowns in Xinjiang have been particularly severe. Forced drug administration, arrests, and the administration of disinfectants to the population took place.
Yasinuf, a Uyghur student studying at a university in Europe, said his mother-in-law sent him a terrifying voice message last weekend saying he was forced into centralized quarantine due to a mild cough. The police who picked her up reminded her of a time when her husband was taken to the camp for more than two years, she said.
She sighed in an audio recording reviewed by the Associated Press. She said, “I don’t know what will happen this time. All we can do now is trust our Creator.”
Yasinuf’s parents said they told him they were running out of food, even though they had stocked up before the lockdown. No delivery and barred from using the backyard oven for fear of spreading the virus, his parents have survived on uncooked dough made of flour, water and salt. Yasinov refused to give his surname for fear of retribution against his relatives.
He said he had not studied or slept recently, thinking of his relatives who had returned to Ghurja.
“Their voices are always in my head, saying they’re hungry, please help me,” he said. “This is his 21st century and this is unthinkable.”
Nilora Elima, a Uyghur from Ghulja, said her father distributes the dwindling tomato stock and shares one with her 93-year-old grandmother every day. She said she had no milk to feed her two-year-old grandson and her aunt was panicking.
“Cons and Downsides”
At a press conference last week, the local governor apologized for “flaws and shortcomings”, including “blind spots and oversights”, in the government’s response to the coronavirus and promised improvements.
But even when authorities admitted their complaints, censorship worked to silence them. The post has been removed from Chinese social media. Some videos were taken down and reposted dozens of times as netizens battled censorship online.
Multiple people in the region told The AP that online posts reflected the dire nature of the lockdown, but declined to detail their own situation, saying they feared the repercussions. .
On Sunday, police announced they had detained four internet users and accused them of spreading rumors about the COVID-19 outbreak.
The four were ordered to five to 10 days’ administrative detention under Gulja’s Chinese name, Yining, according to a report by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Police did not disclose the ethnicity of the arrested, but said they all had names suggesting they were Han Chinese.
“[The detainees] spreading rumors online, inciting hostility, disrupting the pandemic response, [which] It has had a negative impact on society,” police said.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), more than 600 people were detained Monday in the village of Ghulja after defying the blockade to protest food shortages. Demonstrators said several people were killed.
In a video posted on social media, one of the protesters said, “There were deaths, so I came out, or I would have kept silent,” according to RFA. .
The Associated Press said leaked directives from government agencies showed workers were told to avoid negative information and spread “positive energy.” One state-run media outlet directed filming of “smiling seniors” and “children having fun” in areas emerging from lockdown.
“Anyone who maliciously hypes, spreads rumors, or makes unjustified accusations should be dealt with according to the law,” another notice warned.
The AP was unable to independently validate the notification. China’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
For some, the situation began to improve. A resident contacted by phone said food deliveries had resumed after being suspended for several weeks. Allowed.
“The situation is gradually improving. It’s getting pretty good,” she said.
Authorities have ordered large-scale tests and district lockdowns in cities across China this year, with millions in the country’s largest city Shanghai enduring weeks of lockdowns that began in April and led to anger and complaints. I got
Most recently, the tropical resort island of Sanya, the southwestern city of Chengdu and the northern port city of Dalian have been affected, as China seeks to control the spread of the virus ahead of next month’s major party convention. is.