Chinese authorities locked down Ruili city in southwestern Yunnan Province on Sept. 14, mandating that anyone who wants to enter or leave the city must apply for a special permit.
Yunnan governor Ruan Chengfa announced on Sept. 14 that regions that border Burma, Laos, and Vietnam have entered “wartime status” to prevent a further outbreak.
But a nearby city’s quarantine policy suggests that the outbreak is more severe than Ruili authorities let on.
Residents in Ruili told The Epoch Times in phone interviews that authorities suddenly installed iron bars to seal in their residential compounds and didn’t give them time to prepare beforehand.
“Now is the second day of the lockdown. I already can’t stand it. I feel very depressed. I lost my freedom. I’m very angry about being stuck here,” said Zhao Liang (pseudonym), who lives in the Aoxing Century II residential compound.
Authorities have also tightened border control. On Sept. 14, they declared that a Ruili court sentenced three people to eight months imprisonment and a 5,000 yuan ($737) fine for illegally crossing the Burma–Yunnan border.
According to state-run mouthpiece People’s Daily, the three are Chinese nationals who went to Burma in April and crossed the border into Ruili several days later.
Although Ruili has only reported two imported COVID-19 patients, the government of Tengchong—a nearby city that also borders Burma—announced on Sept. 15 that all people who arrived in Tengchong from Ruili after 10 p.m. Sept. 14 must go back to Ruili.
People who left Ruili between Sept. 12 and 10 p.m. Sept. 14 and arrived in Tengchong must pay for a nucleic acid test and self-quarantine at home, the government said.
U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan told The Epoch Times: “Chinese governments don’t report the true scale of an epidemic or other disasters. The fact that the Tengchong government rejected everybody from Ruili and Ruili city fully locked down—these indicate the outbreak in Ruili might be more severe.”
Ruili is home to about 210,000 people. It shares a 100-plus-mile border with Burma. People living on both sides of the border speak the same dialect. Many have family members living on both sides.
Much of Burma’s jade trade is shipped to China via Ruili, where there are many jade-processing factories and jade retailers.
Although the city government locked down the Aoxing Century I and Aoxing Century II residential compounds on the evening of Sept. 12, it didn’t announce the latest COVID-19 cases until the morning of Sept. 14.
Xie Dapeng, mayor of Ruili, said at a press conference on the evening of Sept. 14 that a 32-year-old woman named Yang entered China with her three children and two nannies illegally on Sept. 3. All of them hold Burma passports. After arriving in Ruili, all six people lived in Yang’s sister’s apartment in the Aoxing Century I residential compound.
On Sept. 10, Yang lost her sense of smell and taste. Her sister took her to a hospital. Yang and the 16-year-old nanny Yi tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 12 and were formally diagnosed on Sept. 13.
At about 6 p.m. Sept. 12, authorities quickly sealed off the Aoxing Century I and Aoxing Century II residential compounds.
Xie told reporters that all jade stores had been closed at midnight on Sept. 13, and the whole city had been locked down Sept. 14. Only supermarkets, pharmacies, and open-air food markets have been allowed to operate.
At the same time, all residents in Ruili are required to take nucleic acid tests.
Yang Mou, deputy mayor of Ruili, said at the press conference that the city has 11 hospitals, with a capacity to treat 1,540 patients. The city designated Ruili Zhongdai Hospital as a dedicated COVID-19 treatment facility, with 291 beds.
State-run broadcaster CCTV reported on Sept. 14 that Dali prefecture sent 200 medical staff to Ruili, while Mang city sent 61 medical staff to help treat patients.
“I was told that we [Ruili city] are on level-one alert!” said a business owner who lives in Aoxing Century I residential compound.
A jade businessman said there are normally about 100,000 to 200,000 people trading jade in Ruili every day, but now all operations have ceased.
Another Ruili resident said her child studies in Mang city, located about an hour’s drive away. The school told the child to take a nucleic acid test and self-quarantine in the dorm.
The resident said her child hadn’t recently returned to Ruili, but was treated differently because her family lives in Ruili.
Zhao Liang, a resident at Aoxing Century II, said, “We were told the lockdown would be at least two weeks.”
Zhao said she and her neighbors took nucleic acid tests on Sept. 12 and 13.
“They used iron bars to seal all the gates. Nobody can enter our residential compound,” Zhao said. “Being locked at home, I’m very depressed.”
She said local authorities asked all residents to deposit 1,000 yuan ($147.5) into a WeChat Pay account as credit, then the residential compound’s management team would use the credit to buy groceries for them.
Fearing reprisal from authorities, the interviewees chose not to disclose their names.
Chinese media Caixin reported on Sept. 15 that the lockdown caused food prices to increase dramatically in Ruili. Residents who live in other compounds have also not been allowed to leave their homes.
One city resident told Caixin that he went shopping for food at 2 a.m. on Sept. 14 after hearing about the lockdown. “All vegetables and meat were quickly sold out. The price of pork increased to more than 60 yuan per 500 gram [about $8.03 per pound],” the resident told Caixin.
In Yunnan, the average price of pork is normally 24 to 31 yuan per 500 grams, according to Chinese market reports.