Dharamsala: With Chinese officials making no significant changes to their Covid-19 restrictions in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa despite issuing a recent public apology, a spate of suicides has taken place in the city over the past week.
In the span of two days, at least five people took their own lives by jumping to their deaths in various parts of Lhasa and its suburbs, according to sources the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) reached out to.
“The International Campaign for Tibet is deeply concerned about these developments and urges the Chinese government to refrain from repressive measures and allow space for Tibetans to express their legitimate grievances,” said ICT, an advocacy group that promotes human rights and democratic freedoms for Tibetans.
“China’s mismanagement of Covid in Tibet reveals the extreme human costs when authoritarian police states prioritise censorship and social control over the wellbeing of the people.”
A closer analysis of the five known suicides between September 23 and 24 suggests that all were due to the extreme hardships endured under China’s zero-Covid policy restrictions. The psychological impact of living a highly controlled life in Covid lockdowns and inside mass state-mandated quarantine sites may have driven all five Tibetans to commit suicide by jumping off buildings.
Since the second wave of Covid hit Lhasa almost two months ago, Lhasa authorities, in their efforts to enforce Beijing’s zero-Covid policy, have severely mishandled their Covid response.
Before the authorities stepped up censorship to prevent the spread of news about their Covid mismanagement, Tibetans from all walks of life and age ranges openly shared their grievances and pleas to end the harsh Covid measures.
Those measures have exacerbated the community spread of Covid as well as accelerated already rising cost-of-living expenses.
The Lhasa government’s failed response also revealed the institutional indifference built into local government and exacerbated the strained and already broken communication channels between Tibetans and the authorities.
The Lhasa government’s increased censorship, tactical public apology and subsequent police crackdown on Tibetans for “spreading Covid rumors” and their grievances online have led the five Tibetans to commit suicide in a desperate cry for help.
ICT believes Tibetans are in despair and have no hope for their future under Chinese rule. With Tibet having endured decades of Chinese oppression, the extreme restrictions enforced under Covid lockdown, combined with poor quarantine conditions, raise legitimate fears that this is the future of Tibetan society, and that very little will change after Covid.
With no hope for basic freedoms or rights to express their pain or insecurity, they feel the only way out of their situation is to take their own lives, added ICT.