China's Xinjiang residents yell from balconies as strict coronavirus lockdown drags on

People in China's Xinjiang region have been captured on video shouting to be let out of their apartments, as a backlash against a strict coronavirus lockdown in several cities in the nation's far west grows.

An outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Xinjiang last month saw local authorities impose strict measures, which have seen residents of the autonomous region's largest city, Urumqi, banned from leaving their homes since July 18.

More than 900 cases of the virus have been recorded in Xinjiang since the outbreak began, however no new cases of the virus have been recorded since August 16, and residents in the lockdown zones are now desperate to be let out.

The footage was widely shared on the Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Weibo over the weekend, but censors have since deleted many posts featuring the clips.

Footage has also emerged showing people in Xinjiang being handcuffed to rails in the street during the lockdown.

Social media posts said people were being detained for leaving home without permission.

It was not clear from the footage why the people had been detained, however the ABC was able to confirm the video was filmed in Urumqi.

Posts on social media have said people who left their homes without permission are being detained by local community members in charge of enforcing the lockdown measures.

Last month, Xinjiang's Chinese Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo called on local officials to "build a strict prevention and control network" in response to the outbreak, in coordination with the party, the military, police and civilian groups.

Mr Chen has previously been identified as the architect of Xinjiang's crackdown on Uyghur people. And he was one of a handful of officials sanctioned by the United States last month over human rights abuses.

Officials have described Xinjiang's lockdown as "wartime mode" and have conducted mass coronavirus testing.

Some Urumqi residents have also reportedly been forced to take the traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen, which authorities believe can treat COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of whether they are sick or not.

A box of traditional Chinese medicine contains Ephedra in its ingrediants.
Lianhua Qingwen is not legal in Australia and imports are seized at the border.(Supplied)

The medicine is made from the ephedra plant, a substance that can be used to manufacture the illegal drug methamphetamine and cannot be exported to Australia.

Mr Chen has previously championed the use of both "Western and traditional Chinese medicine in order to increase the recovery rate" of infected patients.

Rural lockdown kills crops, livestock

People living in Xinjiang have taken to social media to express their opposition to the lockdown and criticise the local government's handling of the outbreak.

They have shared photos of front doors with pieces of paper stuck to them, which would tear if a resident attempted to open the door to leave. Some photos also appeared to show doors with wires attached to the handles to prevent them from being opened.

A green door was sealed with red papers in Xinjiang, China.
The piece of paper reads: "Everyone is responsible for the prevention and control of the pandemic."(Weibo: Aishenghuoicd)

Volunteers who were going around to provide food and assistance to those in lockdown were also checking the paper seals to make sure residents had not left without permission, according to an account posted to Weibo by a state media journalist who was taking part in the volunteer work.

Public expressions of anger towards authorities are highly unusual in Xinjiang, a region best known outside of China for its mass detention and repression of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

Xinjiang is home to a vast network of detention facilities that have been criticised by Western nations and where it is believed at least 1 million Uyghurs have been incarcerated.

"My mother was quarantined for 40 days since she returned from Urumqi to [the prefecture of] Ili, where there are no active cases," one Weibo user wrote.

Even some Weibo users with verified accounts — which means they are posting under their legal names, making it easy for authorities to track them — have been openly criticising the Government's approach online.

"When the public authority goes too far and disregards individual rights and freedom, problems will arise," Yuanzheng Cheng wrote.

A person squats in place after being handcuffed to a rail beside a building in Urumqi.
It was not clear why Urumqi residents were being handcuffed in the street.(Weibo)

The ABC spoke to a person in China's east who had family in a rural area of southern Xinjiang, which is mostly Uyghur. They had also been placed under lockdown, despite being around 1,000 kilometres away from Urumqi and having no confirmed cases of the virus.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to fear of prosecution, they said their relatives had been prohibited from leaving their home for more than a month.

The Chinese citizen said while local authorities were caring for some farms, their relatives were concerned a smaller harvest would affect their livelihood.

A volunteer checks a paper slip taped to an Urumqi resident's door. If the resident opens the door, the paper will tear.
A volunteer checks the door of a locked-down resident in Xinjiang's largest city, Urumqi.(Weibo)

"People who turned a blind eye [when Uyghurs] were treated in this way have just realised that they are not immune from the same problem," they said.

Authorities are now moving to relax lockdown measures for some residential areas in Urumqi following the online outcry.

From Tuesday, people from some districts with no confirmed cases will be able to exercise at local parks, according to the state-owned Xinjiang Daily media outlet.

The ABC has approached the Xinjiang Government for comment. 



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