Videos and social media posts by Xinjiang residents show extremely harsh measures taken by Chinese authorities in order to enforce a month-long lockdown, including being forced to take traditional Chinese medicine, being handcuffed to buildings and ordered to stay indoors for weeks.
Videos posted online appear to show residents screaming in frustration from the windows of their apartments while many claimed to have been handcuffed to buildings in order to prevent them from leaving.
Urumqi, the capital of the semi-autonomous region known for its draconian security measures, has been in a “wartime state” of lockdown for more than a month after a cluster of cases emerged in July.
The COVID-19 outbreak had been mostly contained elsewhere in China.
Since Friday, internet users have flooded social media platforms with complaints about overly harsh measures and extended quarantine at home or in designated locations, even as cases have gone down.
The city, which had documented more than 531 cases by mid-August, has not reported any new cases in eight consecutive days.
Internet users complained they had been kept in a quarantine centre for two months and had been required to take the medicine Lianhua Qingwen, an herbal remedy China has been promoting as a treatment for COVID-19.
Videos posted online also show residents screaming from their apartment windows in frustration. The video could not be verified but a notice posted online from one residential compound warned that anyone who participated in the “roaring” activity on August 23 had committed an “illegal act”.
Residents were warned that everything from social credit rating to their children’s school admissions could be affected.
Internet users also posted notices from their residential compounds ordering all residents to stop using or to delete their Weibo accounts due to the “release of bad information”.
Hashtags related to Xinjiang and Urumqi appeared to be blocked over the weekend and some users claimed they were ordered to post positive messages about the city’s response to the pandemic.
Still, images and posts have been uploaded to Douban, another forum, as well as Twitter.
Chinese state media on Monday attempted to paint a more positive picture, reporting that some residential compounds in the city had begun allowing people to leave their homes for “outdoor activities”.
The state-run Global Times newspaper said that in contrast to cities such as Beijing or Shanghai, extreme measures were adopted in Urumqi as a result of the “social norms in Xinjiang, where people … enjoy hanging out outdoors and like to gather together”.
“Unlike the clustered infections in Beijing, which adopted precise anti-epidemic measures by sealing off certain affected communities and the majority of residents could live normally, the same measures cannot fit Xinjiang,” said Zhang Yuexin of the Xinjiang anti-epidemic group, according to the Global Times. (Source: The Guardian)