Tibetans reveal harsh conditions under China’s zero COVID policy


The Chinese government ordered the lockdown of Lhasa but did not prepare for it in advance, sources said.

Tibetans reveal harsh conditions under China’s zero COVID policy

A man undergoes COVID-19 testing in Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Aug. 9, 2022.

Tibetan netizens are taking to social media to air their frustrations with the Chinese government’s zero COVID policy, which has completely shut down Lhasa and other areas of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), sources in the region told RFA.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the TAR. According to official figures from the Chinese government, there were 16,902 confirmed cases in the region through Tuesday, across 147 “substantial or high COVID transmissible areas” and 158 “medium-level transmissible areas.”

The Chinese government imposed a lockdown 31 days ago in Lhasa as COVID numbers there and throughout China continued to climb. The netizens say the lockdown order came without enough time to prepare, leaving people in some cases short of food. Finding treatments for COVID-19 positive patients has also proven difficult.

“Lhasa has been under lockdown for almost a month now,” a Tibetan living in Lhasa told RFA’s Tibetan Service on condition of anonymity for safety reasons. The Chinese government has been fumbling through the hastily ordered lockdown, the source said. 

“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 said. “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.”  

Nowhere to complain 

Tibetans on Chinese social media short video platforms Douyin and Kuaishou criticized the quarantine facilities.

“There is no one attending or treating the COVID patients and there is no sanitization in this facility,” a Tibetan in one of the facilities said in one of the videos. 

“Above all, there are no officials or offices where we can complain about these [conditions],” the source said.

Another Tibetan in one of the facilities said they were “empty houses without beds.”

“If you walk around, you can actually see dust falling down from the roof, which is unhealthy for COVID patients,” the second netizen said. “Food does not arrive on time and by the time it reaches us it has all spoiled.”

Another netizen posted a video blaming quarantine procedures for spreading COVID-19.

“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,” the third netizen said.

RFA was unable to confirm that Chinese authorities spread the virus at testing sites.

Others posted photos and videos of infected people standing around the streets of Lhasa for hours because the government is overwhelmed and cannot quickly transport them to designated facilities.

“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.” 

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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