Residents of the western Xinjiang region have taken to social media to voice their grievances over COVID-19 closures and the lack of food and supplies sufficient to survive prolonged confinements.
Ili Kazakh prefecture, also known as Yili, in northern Xinjiang, with a population of more than 4 million people, has been under strict confinement since Aug. 11, when positive cases were detected in the region. Apparently, there have been no official announcements on closures. However, netizens have been repeatedly denouncing the shortage of supplies.
On Friday, Sept. 9, local authorities reported 27 new asymptomatic cases in Xinjiang. According to an official announcement posted on Wednesday, Sept. 7, on the official Weibo account of the Xinjiang Procuratorate, it said that 19 officials in Yining, the capital of Ili Kazakh, had been disciplined for failing to control the movement of people, which led to the spread of COVID.
Several residents complained on Chinese social networks, such as Weibo, about food shortages. One post showed a Uyghur man with his three children in tears because they had not eaten in 3 days. Others said they could not access the medical care they needed, and one post pointed to a young Uyghur man with a fever waiting for treatment.
A video posted on Weibo showed a man standing at the edge of a window and saying, “I’ve had enough.” Another video showed a couple with their newborn baby stranded at night outside the residential complex where they lived. They could not return home due to confinement orders as the building was completely shut down.
One woman wrote: “I am 41 weeks + 1 day pregnant, and I am nine days overdue. I have been bleeding today. I had already been at Xinhua Hospital for five hours when they told me they were closing the hospital. Eight or nine pregnant women are waiting here, where are we going to go, what are we going to do?.”
Another netizen posted: “We have already been locked up for 39 days. I don’t have words to express everything that is happening here. We want to be trending [on the internet].”
On Sept. 9, Yili authorities held a press conference in which Vice Governor Liu Qinghua confirmed that there were problems with access to medical care and supplies and that local authorities were working to ensure residents’ medical needs during this period.
However, complaints and grievances continued to circulate on social media. Some shared WeChat videos showing mothers crying because they had no food to feed their children. Others said they had not eaten for days because no one had provided them with food.
“We’ve had this epidemic for three years now from 2020 to 2022, how is it possible that the measures are still so poor?” some commented.
“Here in Xinyuan County in Yili, I have been locked up for 31 days, have you?” asked one person on Weibo’s “Yili Supertopic” group. “It’s my 42nd day,” one person replied.
Local authorities denied several of the viral stories on Weibo and WeChat, claiming they were “lies made up by people with bad intentions.”
On Saturday, Sept. 10, Yili’s chief epidemiologist, Li Fan, said the remaining confinements would be lifted after two or three more rounds of testing. The Xinjiang region had reported only 24 asymptomatic cases on Monday, Sept. 12.
On Friday, the Korla authorities in the Mongolian autonomous prefecture of Bayingolin, also in Xinjiang, apologized for failing to adjust Zero-Covid measures in residential areas when they should have and for the “emotional distress” caused by the prolonged confinement.
In this regard, the local authority and its censors were also busy with social networks. Police detained four internet users, charging them with “spreading false rumors about the COVID situation in Xinjiang.”
In a document released on Sunday, the police announced that the four netizens would have to serve a 10-day “administrative” detention sentence in Yinin. This type of detention does not require a trial or involve background charges and only has to be approved by the police.
“[The detainees] spread rumors on the Internet, incited antagonistic sentiments, disturbed the order of anti-pandemic measures, [which] resulted in negative social repercussions,” police said.
Police noted that one of the accused, identified only by the surname Zu, and who received the punishment of 5 days’ detention, spread a rumor that an elderly man had hanged himself because he was on the verge of despair due to hunger.
Chinese regime demands COVID testing even in areas with no reported cases
With the 20th CCP Congress approaching, the Chinese regime requires all cities, even those that have not reported new outbreaks, to continue mass testing for COVID.
These measures have been intensified along with restrictions on travel within the country. “Regular COVID-19 testing should be conducted in areas that do not report any outbreaks and carry out epidemic surveillance and reporting,” Li Dachuan, an official with the National Health Commission, said at a press conference last Thursday.
However, in June, the National Health Commission announced that in areas with low risk, people who stayed at home for a long time and those at low risk did not have to be tested periodically.
Independent research estimated in May that if all first and second-tier Chinese cities, with some 505 million inhabitants, were to carry out a year of mass testing, the cost could amount to $208 billion (1.45 trillion yuan), or about 1.5% of China’s 2021 GDP.