China bans photos, videos of cemeteries as COVID deaths surge in Tibet

Authorities apparently want to restrict news of rising case numbers as deaths continue to climb, sources say.
By Sangyal Kunchok for RFA Tibetan
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China bans photos, videos of cemeteries as COVID deaths surge in Tibet People in protective gear handle bodies in this screenshot from a video in Lithang county in Sichuan’s Kardze, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, China.
Credit: Citizen journalist

Chinese authorities in Tibet are clamping down on the taking of photos or video recordings at local cemeteries in a bid to keep news of rising COVID deaths in the region from reaching the outside world, Radio Free Asia has learned.

Deaths in Tibetan areas of China have continued to climb after lockdowns aimed at controlling the spread of the disease were ended by authorities in early December, Tibetan sources said on Tuesday.

Around 15 to 20 dead bodies are now brought each day to a cemetery in Drigung in the Tibet Autonomous Region and to other cemeteries in the capital of Lhasa, one source living in the area said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“The Chinese government has placed tight restrictions around the cemeteries in Lhasa,” the source said. “People are not allowed to take pictures or videos of the scenes in the cemeteries or to share them.”

A crematorium in Lithang county in Sichuan’s Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture has meanwhile been overwhelmed by the numbers of dead brought in by Jan. 3, another source said, also asking for anonymity in order to avoid the attention of authorities.

“Even though most of those who died were elderly people and people with underlying health issues, others were people who were believed to have recovered from COVID but then died suddenly after their recovery,” RFA’s source said.

“We have not been able to confirm all the causes of death, as access to hospitals and other medical facilities is now restricted,” the source added.

Sources also told RFA that four people — two of them local government employees —died in Dragyab county in Chamdo prefecture on Jan. 7.  And bodies are now being brought in large numbers for cremation to the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Sichuan’s Serta county from nearby areas, other sources said.

China’s government has meanwhile opened Tibet again to visitors from other areas of China, with authorities in Lhasa announcing free admission to tourist attractions in the capital, sources say.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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