Chinese border town Ruili ‘ruthlessly looted’ after nearly 200 days of COVID-19 lockdown – .

Chinese border town Ruili ‘ruthlessly looted’ after nearly 200 days of COVID-19 lockdown – .

In this July 5, 2021 file photo released by the Xinhua News Agency, a medical worker takes a swab sample for a nucleic acid test in Ruili, southwest China’s Yunnan Province .Wang Guansen/The Associated Press

Ruili, a town on China’s border with Myanmar, has become a prison for its 260,000 residents.

Even though the rest of the country has had a year of relative normalcy, with few cases of COVID-19 or restrictions to fear, Ruili has experienced nearly 200 days of lockdown. No other city has borne the brunt of China’s zero COVID-19 strategy more painfully, which aims to quickly suppress any suspected outbreaks.

Since the start of a new epidemic on Oct. 17, some 270 national cases have been recorded, a high figure for China but tiny compared to most Western countries. Canada recorded more than 2,500 cases on Wednesday alone.

Air travelers are subject to strict testing and quarantines, so nearly all cases that arrive in China cross land borders, and the government has pushed local authorities to do more to prevent smugglers and illegal crossings. Since the start of the new wave, more than 4 million people in Lanzhou, in northern Gansu province, have been taken into custody after six cases were detected there, while towns bordering Mongolia have also been detained there. faced new restrictions.

For Ruili, which borders the Burmese town of Muse, the new cases detected in the surrounding Yunnan province mean months of more restrictions that have turned this once vibrant border crossing into a virtual ghost town.

“I have no income and am worried about the future,” said a local resident named Chen. “It almost feels like the lockdown will never end. “

Ms. Chen’s family runs a small restaurant on the outskirts of Ruili that has been closed since July, leaving them with no source of income. She said there are checkpoints on the outskirts of each village that are monitored around the clock.

“Many people online think the outbreak in Ruili is over, but we have been fighting it for six months,” Ms. Chen said. “People don’t know how difficult it is to defend the border. They don’t know how hard we have worked to keep the epidemic under control and prevent it from spreading to the rest of the country. “

Yunnan shares a 4,000 kilometer border with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, and has long fought to contain illegal crossings. These have increased as neighboring countries battled the pandemic, with crossings from Myanmar increasing since April, when a military coup plunged much of the country into yet another civil war and sparked chaos in the health care system.

According to state media, a 100-man police group is now patrolling the Ruili River, which forms the border with Myanmar, looking for those attempting to cross illegally. This month, the team seized 47 ships and arrested 40 illegal immigrants, while 35 others were turned away, according to the state agency. China daily.

“We cannot relax for a single moment because there is always a hidden danger,” Zhang Juntian, deputy team leader, told the newspaper.

But the lack of light at the end of the tunnel has left many of Ruili’s residents increasingly desperate. When a video of a man singing the Chinese national anthem as he threw himself from the roof of a city hotel went viral this month, many sympathized with the feeling of wanting to kill himself, though authorities later said the man was in financial difficulty.

Responding to the growing backlash online this week, the Ruili government said it will provide additional support to unemployed residents, who cannot afford the quarantine needed to leave the city to look for work.

But messages of anger and desperation from residents continued to go viral on Chinese social media on Wednesday, along with accusations that some posts were being censored as the government tried to control the narrative.

An essay written by the city’s deputy mayor Dai Rongli was also widely shared, first posted on his personal WeChat page and then shared by Chinese media.

“The epidemic has plundered mercilessly [Ruili] time and time again, emptying the last traces of life in the city and devouring the hope of its people, ”Mr. Dai wrote. “Please save this city of heroes!” Watch out for this beautiful border town! ”

Ms. Chen said she was somewhat encouraged by the attention Ruili received this week.

“I want the outside world to see what’s really going on with Ruili,” she told The Globe. “I hope that people’s living conditions will be noticed by society.

Alexandra Li contributed to this report

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