Officially, less than 600 symptomatic corona cases have been reported in the Tibetan capital Lhasa since August 8, when the first infections came to light. But social media posts indicate that the local government is no longer in control of the outbreak. For example, people would be transferred in long lines of buses to hastily built quarantine centers. There, people who have tested negative would spend the quarantine with infected patients. The government would no longer be able to deliver food everywhere where people are quarantined, because too many volunteers are absent who have also become ill.
The reports are difficult to verify, but do not match what would be expected based on official infection figures in the Tibetan capital.
Because China has a so-called zero-covid policy, close contacts of positive cases are also detected and detained, and often the contacts of those contacts as well. As a result, according to official figures, more than 50,000 people are now in central quarantine. Images of these appear on the internet: they are huge halls where people lie row after row close to each other on beds. Similar images also came from Shanghai and other cities in lockdown. A larger group is in lockdown in their own home, often for more than a month.
It is very rare for Tibetans to complain about their situation on the internet: the oppression in Tibet has been so severe for decades that nobody dares to criticize the government under normal circumstances. For about a week, the situation seems so dire that people are looking for publicity en masse.
The Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post wrote the story of a one month old baby who was infected and had a fever. But no ambulance was available. Going to the hospital was not possible because the neighborhood was in lockdown. The parents were distraught, but in the end a volunteer managed to get the baby to the hospital.
Stories like this have come out from other Chinese cities before, but a poor, underdeveloped city like Lhasa faces an even bigger challenge. It is even more difficult than for large cities such as Shanghai to provide people in lockdown and in central quarantine with sufficient food and medical care. And even in wealthy Shanghai that failed miserably.
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Local administrators also know that they will be fired if they do not bring the corona outbreak under control quickly and properly. This increases the chance that the official corona figures are not correct. For example, there were only nine new symptomatic cases on Friday, while people on the internet report that one group after another group of care providers is out of action due to corona.
Overwhelm negative noise
China is also dealing with an outbreak in remote Ili in Xinjiang, which is home to some 4.5 million people. When people there complained on the internet that they were starving, the local government started a campaign to spread so many positive messages on the internet that it would drown out the negative messages.
“There are no restrictions on the topics,” reads a message leaked via the China Digital Times. ,,It can be about home life, parenting, cooking or about personal moods. All internet personnel should send a message once an hour (twice in total), but not in quick succession! We repeat: not in quick succession!”