Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile Pema Jungney made an appeal to the World Health Organization to probe China’s neglect in Tibet despite massive spread of the corona virus.
[Posted on T.T Tibetan Site 01/January/2020] According to an official Chinese government channel, the number of people infected with the Coronavirus rose to nine patients in Xining City. Despite having obvious symptoms of fever and cough, a Chinese man named Gou and his son from the city of Lijiashan Town in Huangzhong District (where Kumbum Monastery is located), did not disclose that they travelled from Wuhan city to Xining. Gou’s son is reported to have made several outings since their arrival. Their negligence in intentionally meeting numerous individuals violates various rules of disease prevention laws and they are marked for punishment while being held at a quarantine facility.
Today, the Speaker of the TPiE Pema Jungney in a letter to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom, stated that many countries are screening passengers coming from China and conducting medical tests to prevent the virus from getting into their countries. The Speaker added that Tibetans in Tibet under the illegal occupation of China are exposed to the deadly virus without any proper protection or medical aid, and are without means to voice their suffering due to repressive policies. Speaker Jugney pointed out that travel routes from the city of Wuhan which is considered to be the epicentre of the pandemic are still connected to Tibet, and urged the WHO to look into the matter urgently.
The appeal letter mentioned that the ongoing situation is not surprising given the Chinese government’s persistent attempt to eradicate Tibetans since the occupation of Tibet in 1959. Keeping the travel routes open for travellers from Chinese cities like Wuhan to Tibet is a strategy to expose the Tibetans to the deadly virus and eradicate them. China has been brutally oppressing Tibetans who stand for their religion, culture, language and identity. Their apparent failure to eradicate our identity has risen to such an abhorrent level that now they are letting the virus eradicate Tibetans, the Speaker wrote, adding that such inhuman acts are intolerable for Tibetans. Additionally, he said that he hoped the virus will not spread to Tibet and fervently urged the WHO to look into Tibet’s current situation.
On January 22, in light of safety measures, the Chinese government stopped all flights from Wuhan. However, on January 23, 1 flight from Wuhan to Lhasa via Chengdu, 4 flights to Xining, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region still remained operational along with a train from Wuhan to Lhasa via Purang. In another development, 1900 Tibetan students from 22 different colleges in Wuhan arrived in Lhasa up through January 17th, according to a report made public on the 26th by the Wuhan Tibetan Students Association. The Lhasa City Youth Association claimed that among those who arrived from Wuhan, 7 students had symptoms of common cold.
According to Chinese government statistics, there is currently only one patient with Covid in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet; 209 patients in Sichuan Province; 8 patients in Qinghai Province; 35 patients in Gansu Province; 83 patients in Yunnan Province; and 5 patients in Ganzi, where Tibetans are highly concentrated; and one patient in Ngaba. However international observers say that the actual number of infected is much higher than that is claimed by the Chinese government.
As the Covid pandemic began spreading from Wuhan by the end of December, hospital workers including doctors and nurses were questioned and detained following media reports of the pandemic. On the evening of January 6, a Chinese government news outlet said that reports on Covid in Wuhan are false and that 8 people were detained and will face legal repercussions for their actions for spreading false information. The report also stated that anyone spreading false information about a pandemic would face severe punishment.
The Chinese government informed the WHO that the virus is transmissible in humans on January 7 but the Chinese people were only informed of the same fact on January 22. Wuhan City Mayor Zhou Xianwang said that despite knowing the dangers of the disease, he could not declare the virus is life-threatening without the permission of the central government.
Articles 17 and 409 of the Chinese constitution’s infectious disease law state that anyone who fails to notify an infectious disease to the central authority would be subject to legal consequences. Similarly, if medical negligence caused a disease to spread, those responsible would face up to three years in prison or other severe punishments.