Authorities in China’s far northwest Xinjiang region coerced some residents into taking traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), according to government notices, social media posts and interviews with some people in quarantine in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang authorities are resorting to draconian measures to combat the coronavirus, including physically locking residents in homes, imposing quarantines of more than 40 days and arresting those who do not comply.
Coercing someone to take untested medication is a breach of medical ethics, experts say.
There is a lack of rigorous clinical data showing traditional Chinese medicine works against the virus, and one of the herbal remedies used in Xinjiang, Qingfei Paidu, includes ingredients banned in Germany, Switzerland, the US and other countries for high levels of toxins and carcinogens.
A middle-aged Uyghur woman, arrested at the height of China’s coronavirus outbreak, recounted how she was crammed into a cell with dozens of other women in a detention centre.
She said she was forced to drink a medicine that made her feel weak and nauseous while guards watched to make sure she swallowed.
She and the others also had to strip naked once a week and cover their faces as guards hosed them and their cells down with disinfectant “like firemen”, she said.
“It was scalding,” recounted the woman by phone from Xinjiang, declining to be named out of fear of retribution. “My hands were ruined, my skin was peeling.”
After being detained for over a month, the Uyghur woman was released and locked into her home. Conditions are now better, she told the AP, but she is still under lockdown, despite regular tests showing she is free of the virus.
Once a day, she says, community workers force traditional medicine in white unmarked bottles on her, saying she’ll be detained if she doesn’t drink them.
The AP saw photos of the bottles, which match those in images from another Xinjiang resident and others circulating on Chinese social media.
Authorities say the measures taken are for the well-being of all residents, though they haven’t commented on why they are harsher than those taken elsewhere.
The Chinese government has struggled for decades to control Xinjiang, at times clashing violently with many of the region’s native Uyghurs, who resent Beijing’s heavy-handed rule.
Harsh lockdowns have been imposed elsewhere in China, most notably in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected. But though Wuhan grappled with over 50,000 cases and Hubei with 68,000 in all, many more than in Xinjiang, residents there weren’t forced to take traditional medicine and were generally allowed outdoors within their compounds for exercise or grocery deliveries.
“The Xinjiang Autonomous Region upheld the principle of people and life first… and guaranteed the safety and health of local people of all ethnic groups,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing Friday.
Xinjiang authorities can carry out the harsh measures, experts say, because of its lavishly funded security apparatus, which by some estimates deploys the most police per capita of anywhere on the planet.
The latest gruelling lockdown, now in its 45th day, comes in response to 826 cases reported in Xinjiang since mid-July, China’s largest caseload since the initial outbreak.
But the Xinjiang lockdown is especially striking because of its severity, and because there hasn’t been a single new case of local transmission in over a week.
Since the start of the outbreak, the Chinese government has pushed traditional medicine on its population. The remedies are touted by President Xi Jinping, China’s nationalist, authoritarian leader, who has advocated a revival of traditional Chinese culture.
Although some state-backed doctors say they have conducted trials showing the medicine works against the virus, no rigorous clinical data supporting that claim has been published in international scientific journals. (Source: Independent UK)