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At least 5 Tibetans in Lhasa end their lives amid harsh Chinese COVID lockdown

The Chinese government threatens to punish Tibetans if they share information about the situation.

By Sangyal Kunchok for RFA Tibetan 2022.09.29 -- At least five Tibetans in the regional capital Lhasa have taken their lives as a rigid Chinese government zero-COVID lockdown nears its second month, but Beijing is covering up the severity of the situation in Tibet, sources there told RFA.

The Chinese government imposed a lockdown 52 days ago in Lhasa as COVID numbers there and throughout China continued to climb. The netizens say the lockdown order came without enough time to prepare, leaving people in some cases short of food, while finding treatments for COVID-19 positive patients has also proven difficult.

Reports of Tibetans jumping from buildings in Lhasa, which have surfaced on social media in recent weeks, are true, a source inside Tibet told RFA's Tibetan Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

"One of them was a woman, but I don't have detailed information about the others," the source said.

"People have been forced into this lockdown, and all the sources of information in Lhasa are blocked. It is even impossible to find information on what is happening to one's neighbor," the source said.

"There are not just one or two people jumping from buildings ... actually there are many more."

The COVID lockdown policies placed specifically on Tibetans are inhumane, a Tibetan living in the capital who requested anonymity to speak freely, told RFA.

"The Chinese government is trying really hard to cover up any information related to people dying during this lockdown, and family members are warned not to share any information," the second source said. "The family members are harassed and threatened over the phone that they will be punished if they ever share anything."

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy told RFA that it confirmed the veracity of reports about jumps from buildings.

"We have spoken to three sources inside Tibet who actually saw five Tibetans taking their lives by jumping off buildings," Tenzin Nyiwoe, a researcher at the India-based rights organization, told RFA.

Chinese state media have reported 111 more cases of COVID-19 infection as of Sept. 25, with 60,597 people still held in quarantine in conditions described as harsh by sources inside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Meanwhile, 786 people have been prosecuted by authorities for violating COVID lockdown directives in the TAR since the current outbreak was first reported on Aug. 8, official sources say.

Tibetans are not alone in suffering particularly harsh Chinese zero-COVID lockdowns and other restrictions.

RFA reported last week that at least 22 people died of starvation or lack of medical attention on Sept. 15 China's COVID lockdown policies in the northern Xinjiang city of Ghulja.

Videos posted by desperate Uyghurs on Chinese social media platforms—and quickly deleted by government censors—show local people under strict zero-COVID lockdowns struggling to access food and medical care, with some saying family members had starved to death.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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