In the Xinjiang region, peaceful protests and demands from its citizens through social networks to end the ravages of the Zero-COVID policy have been happening. Many people are locked in their homes without food and supplies, and as they can only express themselves on Chinese social networks, videos of people desperately asking for help as they had no food went viral. Some reported that their neighbors had not eaten for days and feared the worst. A few days ago, it was reported that 22 Uyghurs were found dead from starvation. However, rumors on Chinese social networks indicate that the number could be much higher.
Police crackdown on peaceful protests in Ghulja
According to a report by Radio Free Asia, more than 600 youths were detained in Ghulja, Xinjiang region, last Monday, September 12. The reasons for the detention were that the youths were not obeying the Chinese regime’s “stay-at-home” order but were peacefully protesting against the imposed restrictive measures and the resulting lack of food.
The town of Ghulja, home to more than half a million Uyghurs and other Turkic ethnic minorities, has been under strict forced confinement since early August.
The Chinese Communist regime’s Zero-COVID policy imposes severe confinement, strict population control measures, and total limitations on people’s daily lives. Many are not allowed to leave their homes, so they cannot stock up on food; thus, food prices have risen sharply as people are forced to use delivery services. In addition, local administrators appointed to distribute food and supplies further increased prices to keep some extra money for themselves.
Several videos posted on Chinese social media in late August showed chilling scenes of Uyghurs begging for help, police preventing the delivery of supplies to residential areas, and older adults crying for lack of food. Rumors
of alleged deaths of older people from starvation spread quickly.
Tired of this situation, the villagers of Karadong in Ghulja came out to peacefully protest the cancellation of the restrictive measures pleading to resume a normal life.
“We came out because of the deaths, otherwise we would have remained silent,” said one Uyghur person on social media. “Look at these people who came out on the streets! We, the villagers of Karadong village in Ghulja city, came out on the streets. They [the authorities] didn’t send any help here; therefore, people came out on the street, they couldn’t take it anymore.”
The CCP propaganda media warned the entire population not to come out of their homes to protest. If they did, they would be labeled as “separatists” and accused of “spreading rumors” about the COVID pandemic situation.
Despite the warnings, the people of Karadong demonstrated, and the police had to suppress the protests. As RFA reports, the local police department reported that it arrested 617 people, primarily young people between the ages of 15 and 19. “Many of them are young people who have no idea,” said one of the officers responsible for the arrests.
In early September, following a spate of videos about the desperate plight of people in Xinjiang, some people were arrested and sentenced to serve “administrative sentences.” They were accused of “spreading harmful rumors” on the internet about the restrictions and confinements.
Starvation deaths in Ghulja
According to investigations by RFA Uyghur, 22 people reportedly died of starvation in Ghulja. RFA contacted a local municipality official who confirmed that the number of people who died was 20, not 22. “There are 20 people who have died of starvation. Don’t call back,” the official replied.
Another official from the Ghulja City Municipal Emergency Response Station reported the number as 22 deaths and declined to give further details.
According to a video posted on September 15 on the Duoyin platform, one of the deceased was Halmutar Ömerjan, the chief deputy of Kepekyuzi village in Ghulja.
“They killed my husband Halmutar Ömerjan, the delegate from Kepekyuzi. No one answered my phone calls,” his widow, Huriyet Bekri, said in a statement on social networks.
Comments and rumors on social networks such as Weibo and Duoyin (a social network similar to Tik Tok) indicated that more people died from starvation. However, the local government informed Radio Free Asia that the death toll stands at “20 to 22” people.
In Lhasa the inhabitants are in despair
Another region under strict confinement measures is Lhasa in the Tibet region. Tibetans in Lhasa have been under zero covid policy restrictions since early August. “The epidemic situation is bad in Lhasa, please pay attention,” one netizen commented on Weibo on September 15.
“Lhasa has been closed for more than a month now, and yet our small community has so many infected that I wonder how effective the closure is. Has Tibet been forgotten? When other places in China have some positive cases, it becomes a trend. But what about Tibet? What about Lhasa?” posted another netizen on Weibo.
Another Tibetan wrote: “As for the Lhasa epidemic situation, the figures were already a bit fake before, but I can understand that it was also to take public sentiment into account. Personally, I don’t care how the data is reported, as long as the epidemic prevention and control efforts are properly managed, then the blockade can soon be lifted and no one will say anything about it. But a month has already passed, and in a city with a few hundred thousand inhabitants, the management of the epidemic is getting worse and worse. Many people around me have not even left the house and have inexplicably tested positive. Meanwhile, those who tested positive are in quarantine along with the people who still tested negative, it’s a terrible mess.”
Chinese regime warns on social media
In the Tibet region, a Chinese official in Lhasa issued a notice warning residents not to share any COVID-related news or information on social media.
The local government in Ghulja issued censorship warnings on Chinese social networks, “from today until September 18, no one can share any news, any graphics with written news, or images of desperate expressions or videos on social networks, especially in separate chat rooms because our country will hold its National Congress on October 18.”
The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is an important event for the country, as it will decide who remains at the helm of the regime. Analysts and experts agree that Xi Jinping will achieve his third term, something unprecedented for the communist party that none of the previous leaders could achieve.