Authorities in China’s Xinjiang region are forcing residents to swallow herbal remedies, locking people in their homes and imposing harsh 40-day quarantines to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
At least 826 infections have been reported in the autonomous region, located in northwest China, since mid-July. That number represents the largest grouping of cases since China’s initial coronavirus outbreak, but no instances of local transmission have been reported for over a week, according to the AP. Nonetheless, local government officials are keeping lockdown measures in place for more than 12 million people in a region that spans hundreds of miles.
Xinjiang is perhaps best known for its harsh treatment of Uighur Muslims, who for years have been surveilled and sent to reeducation camps where they are allegedly used for forced labor. According to the AP, the draconian lockdown measures have targeted Uighurs and the Han Chinese majority alike.
Social media posts have shown “residents handcuffed to railings and front doors sealed with metal bars,” the AP reported. Such posts are often swiftly deleted.
Residents have also reported being coerced to swallow traditional Chinese medicines in unmarked white bottles on a daily basis, with the threat of detention looming if they don’t comply. The remedies have not been proved as a treatment for covid-19 but have been heavily promoted by President Xi Jinping, in a lucrative arrangement that benefits both billionaire manufacturers and local governments that own a stake in the companies.
Officials claim that the aggressive measures being taken in Xinjiang are necessary to protect residents’ health, the AP reported. But they haven’t explained why the lockdown restrictions are so much harsher than those imposed in other parts of China that have experienced coronavirus outbreaks.