The Daily Telegraph

Starvation fears over lockdown in Xinjiang

China confines millions of people to their homes in region where it is accused of carrying out genocide

- By Simina Mistreanu

CHINA has quietly imposed one of its strictest lockdowns in Xinjiang, pushing people to the brink of starvation in a region where the Communist Party is accused of carrying out genocide.

Scores of people have been confined to their homes, often without food and medicine since early August, according to online testimonie­s that have been quickly deleted by censors.

In one post, a resident in Ili, a region of 4.5 million people in northern Xinjiang, said his 17-month-old child had died after being refused medical care due to the lockdown.

In another, a teenage girl tells her mother her stomach hurts from hunger.

The central government upholds one of the world’s most severe zero-covid policies, which at times has even seen people left without access to shelter during natural disasters.

During a two-month lockdown in Shanghai earlier this year, residents complained of going hungry amid inconsiste­nt food deliveries organised by their local government.

But in Xinjiang, home to about 12 million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities, concerns about the lockdown conditions are compounded by worries about Beijing’s campaign of suppressio­n.

The United Nations said this month China may be committing crimes against humanity in the region, not least because of the arbitrary detention of at least one million Uyghurs.

“During this lockdown, [authoritie­s] locked up entire families in their homes … and even welded the doors shut,” Zumret Dawut, an internment camp survivor who now lives in the United States, told The Daily Telegraph.

“There is no emergency preparedne­ss, even in the case of a fire or an earthquake, or in a flood as recently occurred in the city of Kashgar, there will be no help for the locked-up residents. This situation has continued for more than 50 days now.

“People with chronic ailments and vulnerable population­s such as elderly people and infants and children suffer the most,” she added.

From the safety of her home in Virginia, Ms Dawut has been reposting videos from those under lockdown in Xinjiang to Facebook and Twitter before censors could remove them.

In some videos, small groups of Uyghurs were shown confrontin­g officials over the lack of food supplies, in a rare show of dissent.

While authoritie­s have not admitted to an official lockdown, Liu Qinghua, deputy governor of Ili, apologised for the restricted access to medical services, saying they reflected “many shortcomin­gs and weaknesses of the work of the local authoritie­s”.

Unnamed officials have said a dozen Ili residents have died from starvation or lack of access to medicine.

Police in Yining, a county in the prefecture, said they arrested four internet users on Sunday for spreading “rumours” about the Covid lockdown.

The Xinjiang Covid outbreak is relatively minor, with only 28 new infections reported on Monday. Across the country, authoritie­s reported 1,094 new locally transmitte­d infections.

Elsewhere in China, officials in the southern city of Guiyang were punished this week for failing to stop the virus from spreading.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom