Local Tibetans worry about a second wave of coronavirus infection coming into the region after Chinese authorities in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province are reopening tourist sites.
Sources in the area told RFA that reopening the sites is an effort by the Chinese government to project a return to normalcy and to generate revenue at a time when the Chinese economy faces possible recession as the virus continues to spread.
Sites like the Chaksam Khamonestary in Kardze reopened on Friday according to a Chinese tour company, with an upper limit of 4,000 visitors per day. The tour company announced that medical professionals who were at the forefront of the fight against the spread of the coronavirus would be given free admission to the sites.
The government claims that every confirmed case in the prefecture has recovered and visiting the tourist areas is now safe.
A Tibetan living in Dartsedo (Kangding) told RFA’s Tibetan Service that local residents are still taking every precaution when venturing outside their homes.
“We are still scared of the virus. We have self-quarantined and hardly go out, and if we do, we wear facemasks,” the source said.
“But now that they are reopening the tourist sites in Kardze, hundreds of [Han] Chinese visitors are coming into our area every day,” added the source.
“It is very concerning because just one of those tourists can start the spread the coronavirus here again.”
The source said that the decision was made to help out the Chinese tourism industry, not Tibetan locals.
“Tourism income goes to the government-run tour companies and operators. It has no bearing and little relevance to the livelihoods of ordinary people, except of course that the tourists will leave behind mountains of trash like they always do, which is harmful to the environment.”
Another Tibetan source in Kardze told RFA, “All the tourists are [Han] Chinese. We know that the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, so how can they guarantee there won’t be another wave of infection? We are so worried.”
A third Tibetan source told RFA, “As soon as the Chinese put forward the claim that coronavirus has subsided here, the tour operators were in such a hurry to make money that everyone is overlooking and disregarding the health, safety and security of the local people.” (Source: RFA)