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Tibetans Share Stories About Deplorable Living Conditions Due to China’s Zero-COVID Policy

Darren Maung
Darren is an aspiring writer who wishes to share or create stories to the world and bring humanity together as one. A massive Star Wars nerd and history buff, he finds enjoyable, heart-warming or interesting subjects in any written media.
Published: September 21, 2022
Tibetan Buddhists walk the kora in front of the Jokhang Temple, a UNESCO heritage site, on June 1, 2021 in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. The region is under strict lockdown due to rising cases of COVID-19 prompting Tibetans to flock to social media to share stories about the conditions they are being forced to live under. (Image: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

In light of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) draconian pressure over areas of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), Tibetans have been flocking to social media to share their experiences with the degrading living conditions they have had to endure under lockdown. With a reported rise in COVID-19 cases in the area, the communist government has asserted its control over the Tibetan population.

Lhasa under lockdown

Tibetans are sharing their grievances on social media over the CCP’s zero-COVID policy, which has locked down Lhasa and other areas of the TAR, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

According to the CCP,  COVID-19 cases in the TAR rose to an alarming 16,902 through Tuesday, all within 147 “substantial or high COVID transmissible areas” and 158 “medium-level transmissible areas.” 

In response, the government enacted a 31-day-long lockdown on Lhasa — a city of 860,000 people — and other areas. However, netizens reported that the lockdown was imposed without warning, allowing no time to prepare food supplies and medicinal treatment for those trapped within.

“Lhasa has been under lockdown for almost a month now,” one anonymous Tibetan in Lhasa told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“A man bleeding from his nose was locked inside a quarantine facility, and the officials in charge were not able to find the keys to open the door so that they could take him to a hospital. The man remained in that poor condition for almost two days,” the source said.

“In another facility, someone had a stroke and due to communication issues between the hospitals and officials, he could not reach the hospital sooner,” the source added. “The patient is now in the hospital but remains unconscious. So even though the Chinese government has set up facilities to lock people down, there are no proper treatments for them.”

Tibetans also took to Chinese short video platforms like Douyin and Kuaishou, to share their frustrations regarding the quarantine facilities. They reported that there has been “no one” tending to patients or to sanitize the facilities, in addition to there being no authority to report issues concerning their accommodations.

The lack of cleanliness is said to be so bad that dust can be seen falling off the roof, adding more risk for Tibetans within the locked-down areas, according to one Tibetan.

Food shortages and damages have also been reported by netizens. One resident could not buy food after being locked down for more than a month, and was forced to rely on potatoes and onions. The lack of a major e-commerce operator leaves the hunger of Tibet in the hands of the CCP.

“Food does not arrive on time and by the time it reaches us it has all spoiled,” a netizen said. 

It was also said that the lack of hygiene by Chinese officials appears to be spreading the cases even more, though RFA was unable to verify the claims.

“We see this rise in COVID cases in Lhasa because the officials who test the public never sanitize their hands, and so this cycle goes on and on,” another netizen reported.

Transportation has also been a problem during the lockdown. People could be seen standing and walking around the streets for hours, waiting to be hauled away to a facility.

“Local officials forced me into lockdown without any verification whether I have COVID or not,” a Tibetan from Karma Monastery in Lhasa told RFA.

“They made me wait by the roadside for almost three hours before they took me to the facility for a day and then released me. There were around 600 people with me in those lockdown facilities and now I am worried I might have COVID.”


Tibetan troubles

Lhasa’s vice-mayor, Zhandui, sent an apology during a media briefing on Sept. 17, bowing to the masses over the city government’s failures.

“We sincerely accept criticism for these problems, which have had a greater impact on the productivity and life of some of the people,” Zhandui said. “On behalf of the municipal government, I would like to express our deep apologies to the people of all ethnic groups and those stranded in Lhasa due to the epidemic.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also reported on Sept. 5 that the CCP initiated “arbitrary collection” of DNA from the residents within the TAR, subjecting more people to its draconian laws without their consent.
South China Morning Post (SCMP) wrote on Aug. 28 that more than 100 officials in Tibet were dismissed and “punished” over supposed failures in handling the pandemic.