The Tibetan government-in-exile has taken aim at the "draconian measures" used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to enforce its so-called "zero-COVID policy," saying the measures are "evidently causing more harm than good."
Tibet is considered an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China.
The comments from the Tibetan government-in-exile, also known as the Central Tibetan Administration, come as China's strict containment restrictions across Tibet have led to cries for help from people in the capital of Lhasa, where local authorities have closed off parts of the city and rolled out mass-testing for residents.
"We can’t subsist any longer. Help the people of Tibet! Save the land of Tibet!" one internet user posted on China’s social media platforms earlier this month.
The Tibetan government-in-exile said that the CCP, in an "attempt to present itself as a role model in curbing the outbreak" is "downright disregarding the safety and security of Tibetans in need of medical assistance and COVID care evidenced by the dire lockdown conditions being reported and exposed online by a number of affected Tibetans."
Conditions 'Worse Than a Prisoner'"Tibetans complained about crowded quarantine facilities, food scarcity, lack of medical supplies, and unhygienic living conditions," they wrote. "Some Tibetans likened the condition to being worse than a prisoner and another Tibetan was beaten up for protesting against the dire living situation under the COVID lockdown."
China publicly reported the first COVID outbreak in Tibet since 2020 on Aug. 8, prompting authorities to close off parts of Lhasa and roll out mass testing to contain the virus; identified as the Omicron BA.2.76 variant.
Overall, 22 individuals tested positive for COVID in Lhasa and Ngari, located in western Tibet.
"Within weeks, at least 3,627 people had reportedly tested positive indicating a rapid increase," the Tibetan government-in-exile wrote, noting that stringent government lockdowns were soon initiated in Lhasa, Shigatse, and Ngari following reports of positive cases from nearby areas of Nagchu, Chamdo, Lhoka, and Nyingtri.
"Currently, an estimated 53,076 people reside in isolation centres in the 'TAR' alone. Meanwhile, a number of Tibetan areas outside of the 'TAR', including Karze and Ngaba in Kham and Amdo provinces respectively, continue to report daily COVID cases resulting in sporadic lockdowns, Chengdu being the worst-hit area in China’s Sichuan."
"Meanwhile, China’s propaganda machinery has been actively covering up the situation," they wrote.
Chinese authorities claimed Mount Everest tourists brought the virus to the region.
"China’s state media claimed no shortcomings in the implementation of the zero-COVID policy during the latest COVID outbreak in Tibet," the Tibetan government-in-exile wrote. "When the COVID cases escalated, Chinese authorities labelled the BA.2.76 virus as a 'foreign import' and misled the public with false claims of high-quality medical services and timely supply of essential commodities."
'Mixing Infected With Those Who Are Not Infected'Pointing to video footage posted online which allegedly shows Tibetans cramped into makeshift isolation sites with appalling conditions, the exiled government praised Tibetans who have risked reprisals from the Chinese authorities to show the reality of the government's zero-COVID policy measures.
"The spread of the virus proliferated due to officials’ mismanagement of mixing infected with those who are not infected, resulting in sickness at every level of society, from police to volunteers," they wrote.
The Central Tibetan Administration called on Beijing to "adequately acknowledge the public criticisms made by Tibetans who have genuinely expressed their frustration at the lack of sufficient facilities and protect them from reprisals for honest opinions of the government’s mismanagement."
"It is perceived that the mismanagement of the COVID outbreak in Tibet could be linked to the upcoming 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The Zero-COVID policy, prioritized by Xi Jinping, China’s president, is likely being used to seize and suppress the parties’ so-called dissenters ahead of its most significant meeting," they wrote.
"Yet, it is imperative that the government respects the rights of the Tibetan people under its international obligations and ensures that they are treated with respect and have access to adequate medical facilities and basic necessities under its Zero-COVID policy."