Lockdown in Tibet triggers a wave of anger – and censorship – on Chinese social networks

An ongoing lockdown in occupied Tibet and the mass internment of residents in Chinese coronavirus quarantine camps has led locals to post dozens of videos expressing panic and condemning the Communist Party for mistreatment over the past month, this which resulted in a rare apology from local officials, followed by brutal online censorship.

The situation in Tibet is similar to that in the neighboring occupied region of East Turkestan, where indigenous Uyghurs say the Communist Party is trying to expand its ongoing genocide against them by starving them to death in coronavirus lockdowns. Radio Free Asia (RFA), an American news outlet, has reported, citing Chinese government officials, that the East Turkestan lockdown has left 22 starving to death in one day this month and countless more since the start of the term. of house arrest at the end of July.

Voice of America reported on Thursday that the deluge of videos on sites like Weibo and Douyin, China’s version of Tiktok, of Tibet show desperate Tibetans blaming officials for the disappearance of residents in quarantine camps with little information, often using a bus that only comes in the night dead.

“Social media videos from Lhasa show people waiting to be transported at night to about 20 makeshift quarantine camps,” Voice of America reported, referring to Tibet’s capital. “For Lhasa residents, the ‘midnight bus’ represents their fears of what they might find once they arrive at crowded and locked quarantine sites.”

Past videos from quarantine sites across the country have revealed harrowing scenes of dirty, messy and overcrowded quarantine camps full of desperate people. In Shanghai, the Communist Party sent in the military this year to separate babies from parents who tested positive for the disease, placing children in unsafe camps where leaked footage showed children receiving little or no supervision. Some images showed up to three infants in the same crib, posing life-threatening risks of suffocation and other injuries.

Outside the camps, Chinese authorities beat to death the pets of people imprisoned in the quarantine camps, often in public. Even transport to the camps is not safe; at least 27 people last week after a quarantine camp bus crashed in Guizhou province.

These conditions have all occurred in some of China’s most privileged regions – Shanghai is the city’s largest and wealthiest city – leaving many to fear that the situation in a poor and particularly repressed region like Tibet could be well. worse.

Voice of America related some of the videos posted from Tibet on Chinese social media before the crackdown:

In one article, a Tibetan woman said people were treated like criminals instead of patients. If authorities are unable to properly run these quarantine camps, she said, then they should allow those who test positive to self-isolate at home. “Even if they die, they can at least die at home,” she said.

In a viral audio recording, a Tibetan father begs a government official at one of Lhasa’s quarantine centers not to separate him from his one-year-old child. “We were first brought to this quarantine camp even though we tested negative for COVID. Now we have tested positive and you want to take our child. If we have to move again, we want [to] move together as a family,” he said. “If you separate us from our child, I’m ready to die right here.”

Last week, RFA had compiled evidence of at least three Tibetans who died from lack of care during the lockdown. RFA reported that the three people had died of Chinese coronavirus infections, citing residents who added that timely care could have prevented the deaths.

Tibetan Review, a publication that regularly monitors news from the region, reported on Wednesday that many of those speaking out against Tibet’s regime on social media appeared to be Han Chinese, not Tibetans, which could prompt a stronger response. thorough to complaints. Local officials in Lhasa issued a formal apology last Saturday for the distress of residents.

“We sincerely accept criticism for these issues, which have had a greater impact on some people’s productivity and lives,” a vice mayor of Lhasa identified as Damdul told reporters. “On behalf of the municipal government, I would like to express our deep apologies to people of all ethnic groups and those stranded in Lhasa due to the outbreak,” he said at a press briefing.

While China has refused to reconsider its total lockdowns to supposedly prevent the spread of the Chinese coronavirus – even though the World Health Organization (WHO) has discouraged them – Beijing has often throughout the pandemic forced local officials to apologize or take the fall in the face of public outrage or unrest.

“The apology issued by senior leaders in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, on September 17…was accompanied by censors who wiped out China’s social media website. Weibo without posts documenting the chaos of pandemic control measures there, China’s online monitoring group said chinadigitaltimes.net September 20,” according to Tibetan Review.

Censors reportedly took down a hashtag dedicated to sharing lockdown abuse and other related events and shut down a feature on Weibo that lets users see “trending topics in your city”.

The situation in Tibet, both the lockdowns and the ensuing censorship, appears similar to reports from East Turkestan. Chinese authorities locked down one of East Turkestan’s biggest towns, Ghulja, in late July, leaving residents without access to needed food or medicine. A flurry of social media posts and videos, including videos of desperate residents showing the corpses of loved ones trapped at home, hit Weibo this month.

Unlike in Tibet, the closures have led to multiple protests. One such protest, apparently consisting of people simply leaving their homes without government permission, resulted in more than 600 arrests by mid-September. Authorities identified those arrested as mostly young Uyghurs.

China is currently waging genocide against the Uyghurs and other Turks of East Turkestan, imprisoning millions in concentration camps years before the pandemic and using mass sterilization and slavery to control and limit the population growth. The coronavirus lockdowns, which Uyghur activists have denounced, add “forced starvation” as a tactic of genocide to the list already including the aforementioned abuses as well as the destruction of historical sites, the separation of children from families, the harvesting of organs alive and other atrocities.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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