A weeks-long COVID-19 lockdown in Tibet has brought an “expansion of already suffocating living conditions”, a rights group has said, after a top regional official issued a rare apology this month over virus restrictions.
Cities across Tibet have been under COVID-19 curbs since the start of August, with authorities mandating mass testing and keeping locals at home as China sticks to its strict zero-Covid policy.
Complaints of chaotic transfers to mass quarantine facilities, lack of supplies and poor quarantine conditions have surfaced on Chinese social media in recent weeks.
The vice mayor of Tibet’s capital Lhasa issued a public apology earlier this month admitting to problems with how Covid had been handled, pinning the blame on individual officials.
But “no meaningful remedial measures have been implemented to ameliorate the harsh lockdown and quarantine conditions”, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a report Thursday.
One video shared on Chinese social media appeared to show people forced to quarantine in unfinished apartments.
The ICT said there had been “extreme hardships endured under China’s zero-COVID policy” and warned that “Tibetans are in despair and have no hope for their future under Chinese rule”.
“The COVID-19 outbreak in Tibet has resulted in the expansion of already invasive and suffocating living conditions in Tibet,” it added.
“Tibetans living under Chinese rule have already suffered for decades as second-class citizens due to Beijing’s hardline policies targeting Tibetan identity, culture, language and religion.”
China, which has ruled Tibet since the 1950s, has been accused of trying to eradicate the region’s Buddhist-based culture through political and religious repression and large-scale immigration by the country’s dominant Han Chinese.
Beijing says it “peacefully liberated” the rugged plateau and brought infrastructure and education to the previously underdeveloped area.
Chinese officials have said Tibet is gradually returning to normal after the COVID-19 outbreak, with work restarting at some businesses.
But a business owner near the Gakyiling Zone 3 neighbourhood in Lhasa told AFP he was still under lockdown, declining to say more.