People's Newsroom

40-day COVID lockdown; Xinjiang residents complain of hunger

People in Ghulja take to social media to show empty fridges saying they are not receiving supplies to get them through enforced confinement

.Residents of a city in China’s far western Xinjiang region say they have run out of food after more than 40 days under a strict coronavirus lockdown.

In posts shared on Chinese social media, as well as platforms including TikTok and Twitter, residents of Ghulja showed empty fridges and hungry children. Others were in tears recounting their experience during the lockdown, which began in early August.

People in Aksu in Xinjiang walking the streets in masks in March 2021.
Some residents in Xijjiang say a prolonged coronavirus lockdown has left them without enough food [File: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]

China remains committed to a policy of ‘zero COVID’, confining whole communities to their homes for extended periods — with food supplies delivered — and requiring them to undergo regular testing.

The lockdown in Ghulja has also prompted accusations that the mostly Muslim Uighurs, the Turkic ethnic group native to Xinjiang, are being targeted.

China has been accused of running a network of detention centers and prisons in the region and holding some one million Uighurs and other largely Muslim minorities in a system that the United Nations has said may constitute “crimes against humanity“. Beijing has argued the camps are vocational skills training centers necessary to address “extremism”.

An earlier lockdown in Xinjiang was particularly tough, with forced medication, arrests, and residents being hosed down with disinfectant.

“It’s judgment day,” she sighed in an audio recording reviewed by The Associated Press. “We don’t know what’s going to happen this time. All we can do now is to trust our creator.”

Yasinuf said his parents told him they were running low on food, despite having stocked up before the lockdown. With no deliveries, and barred from using their backyard ovens for fear of spreading the virus, his parents have been surviving on uncooked dough made of flour, water, and salt. Yasinuf declined to give his surname for fear of reprisals against his relatives.

He said he had not been able to study or sleep in recent days, for thinking of his relatives back in Ghulja.

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