Under Covid lockdown, Xinjiang residents complain of hunger

BEIJING: Residents of a city in the far west of China Xinjiang The region says it is experiencing famine, forced quarantine, and supplies of medicine and daily necessities dwindling after more than 40 days of virus lockdown.
Hundreds of posts from Ghulja caught the attention of Chinese social media users last week, with residents sharing videos of empty refrigerators, feverish children and people screaming from their windows .
Serious conditions and lack of food reminiscent of a harsh lock in shanghai This spring, when thousands of residents posted online, complaining that they had been delivered rotting vegetables or denied vital medical care.
But unlike in Shanghai, a glittering, cosmopolitan metropolis of 20 million people and home to many expats, the harsh lockdowns in smaller cities like Ghulja are less noticeable. .
As more and more infectious variants of the coronavirus enter China, outbreaks are becoming more and more common. Below China’s ‘zero-Covid’ strategyTens of millions or people are experiencing lockdowns, crippling the economy and making travel uncertain.
The door lock in Ghulja is also raising fears of police brutality against the Uighurs, the Turkic ethnic group with roots in Xinjiang. For years, the area has been the target of an all-out security crackdown, drawing large numbers of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of ethnic minorities. camps and prisons. An earlier crackdown in Xinjiang was particularly difficult, with drug enforcement, arrests, and people killed with disinfectants.
Yasinuf, a Uighur who is studying at a university in Europe, said this weekend his mother-in-law sent fearful voice messages saying she was being forced into a centralized quarantine because of her illness. mild cough. She said the officials who came to see her reminded her of the time her husband had been incarcerated for more than two years.
“It’s judgment day,” she sighed, in an audio recording reviewed by the Associated Press. “We don’t know what will happen this time. All we can do now is trust our creators. ”
Food was in short supply. Yasinuf said his parents told him they were running out of food supplies, despite stocking up before locking the door. With no delivery, and banned from using the oven in their backyard for fear of spreading the virus, his parents survived on an uncooked cake made with flour, water and salt. Yasinuf declined to give his last name for fear of reprisal.
He said he couldn’t study or sleep in recent days because the thought of his loved ones in Ghulja kept him up at night.
“Their voices are always in my head, saying things like I’m hungry, please help us,” he said. “This is the 21st century, this is unthinkable.”
Nyrola Elima, a Uighur in Ghulja, says her father is dividing their dwindling tomato supply, sharing one a day with her 93-year-old grandmother. Another relative, the baby’s aunt, is panicking because she doesn’t have enough milk to feed her 2-year-old grandchild.
Last week at a press conference, the local governor apologized for “shortcomings and omissions” in the government’s response to the coronavirus, alluding to “blind spots and omissions.” and promise to improve.
But even as the authorities acknowledged the complaints, the censors worked to stay silent. The post has been removed from social media. Some videos have been deleted and re-posted dozens of times as netizens battled online censors.
Many in the area told the AP that the online posts reflected the dire nature of the lockdown, but declined to detail their situation, saying they feared retribution.
On Monday, local police announced the arrest of six people for “spreading rumors” about the lockdown, including posts about a dead child and a suicide, which they allege. inciting opposition” and “disturbing social order.”
Leaked directives from government offices show that workers are being asked to avoid negative information and instead spread “positive energy”. One directed state media to film “smiling seniors” and “joyful kids” in neighborhoods that emerged after the shutdown.
“Those who inflate, spread malicious rumors and make unreasonable accusations should be dealt with according to the law,” a notice warned.
The AP cannot independently verify the messages. China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As the administration campaigned, conditions improved for some. One resident, contacted by phone, said food deliveries have resumed after being shut down for several weeks. Residents of her property are now allowed to walk in their yard a few hours a day.
“The situation is slowly improving, it has gotten a lot better,” she said.
Authorities have ordered mass inspections and lockdowns of counties in cities across China in recent weeks, from Sanya on the tropical island of Hainan to southwestern Chengdu, to the port city of North Dalian.
In the mountainous city of Guiyang in the southern province of Guizhou, a zoo called for help last week, asking for pork, chicken, apples, watermelons, carrots and other products because fear they might run out of food for their animals.
Elsewhere in the city, residents in one neighborhood complained of hunger and lack of food delivery, leading to a flurry of comments online. Local officials apologized, saying that despite their best efforts, they were overwhelmed.
“Due to lack of experience and inappropriate methods,” they said in a public statement, “the provision of basic necessities is insufficient, bringing inconvenience to everyone. We are deeply sorry.”

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