Uyghur university student quarantined for Covid-19 near Xinjiang internment camp


Miradil Nurahmat, an undergraduate student at Xinjiang Normal University in the XUAR capital Urumqi,has been placed in quarantine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) near an internment camp in Atush (in Chinese, Atushi) city, according to an official, amid concerns that conditions in the facilities could lead to a viral outbreak.

He was isolated for observation after returning home to Atush, while on a school break to visit his family on January 27, a neighbourhood committee chief in the city told RFA’s Uyghur Service last week.

The committee chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said she had reported Nurahmat to the local Communist Party secretary because he arrived from outside of Atush, and that authorities took him to “District 6,” an industrial zone on the outskirts of the city that houses an internment camp.

“He’s under quarantine,” the chief said, adding that Nurahmat could be held anywhere from two to three weeks although she did not specify whether Nurahmat had exhibited any symptoms of the coronavirus.

On January 23, Chinese state media announced the first confirmed infections in the XUAR—two men who had previously travelled to the epicentre of the virus, Hubei province’s Wuhan city—and by Wednesday at least 59 people have been infected, while more than 4,100 are under medical observation in the region after exhibiting symptoms associated with the virus.

Recent reports on social media, including one by a medical staffer in the XUAR, suggest that as many as 13,000 people from Wuhan may have entered the region ahead of an order by authorities to shut down all transportation in and out of the city of 11 million people last month, although these numbers could not be independently verified by RFA’s Uyghur Service.

The committee chief said she speaks regularly with Nurahmat by phone, and that he is doing well.

“He said there’s one other person in his room and they’re looking after them well—the nurses are taking care of them and there are people bringing food for them,” she said.

Meanwhile, the chief said that since Jan. 23, “we’ve been telling people not to go outside, just to stay where they are, and not to let their kids out,” while “all of the hotels are full” with people from outside of the city who are being held for quarantine.

“There are a lot of travellers and students [staying there],” she said. “[The authorities] said they’re taking everyone who came from outside [of Atush], whether for business or for tourism.”

Last week, RFA spoke with several officials in Atush who said on condition of anonymity that at least 99 residents of Wuhan had been quarantined at the city’s Yashin Hotel, with additional people from the virus’s epicentre possibly held under similar conditions in another guesthouse.

The committee chief said that with the Yashin Hotel now full, authorities have been sending anyone they believe should be quarantined to District 6, and that Nurahmat is being held “in a building next to” an internment camp.

Another local official, who also declined to be named, confirmed to RFA that Nurahmat is being quarantined in District 6 and that it is the site of an internment camp—part of the regional camp system where as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harbouring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas are believed to have been detained since April 2017. (Source: RFA)