Report: China Forcing Uyghur Health Workers into Coronavirus Treatment Centers

Uyghur men perform prayers for ancestors at a cemetery before the Corban Festival on September 11, 2016 in Turpan County, in the far western Xinjiang province, China. The Corban festival, known to Muslims worldwide as Eid al-Adha or 'feast of the sacrifice', is celebrated by ethnic Uyghurs across Xinjiang, the …
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China is forcing Uyghur health workers to treat Wuhan coronavirus patients in northwest China’s Xinjiang province, according to a report by Radio Free Asia (RFA) published on Thursday.

Ghulja city has converted local hotels into quarantine shelters, where Uyghurs are reportedly being forced to live while treating Wuhan coronavirus patients. Several health officials in Ghulja confirmed that Uyghur health workers had been assigned to multiple quarantine centers in the area, RFA noted.

Only ethnic Uyghurs have been sent to highly infectious centers to treat patients, the report alleged. Han Chinese health workers have been spared the dangerous task, allowed to remain stationed in local hospitals that are not receiving coronavirus patients. Wuhan coronavirus patients are treated exclusively at the hotel quarantine centers.

“The patients and personnel responsible for treatment are all at hotels,” said a Uyghur employee of the Communist Party office of the Hospital of Uyghur Traditional Medicine in a phone interview with RFA.

“We’ve supplied doctors, but we don’t know which hotels … All of our doctors have gone, and [higher-level officials] didn’t tell anything to our work unit,” the employee added.

The Hospital of Uyghur Traditional Medicine’s website indicates that 97 health workers are normally on staff there.

News that Ghulja has been converting hotels into quarantine shelters follows similar reports in February that other cities in Xinjiang have been doing the same. Atush (Atushi), in Xinjiang’s Kizilsu Kirghiz (Kezileisu Keerkezi) Autonomous Prefecture, reported at least 99 people had been quarantined at a local hotel at the time.

Ghulja has the second-highest rate of Wuhan coronavirus infections in the region, according to the Communist Party, after the capital Urumqi with 18 cases, according to a paper published by health officials in Xinjiang on March 30.

Health figures shared by authorities in Xinjiang may be subject to skepticism. Xinjiang officials are believed to be responsible for detaining members of the native Uyghur population in concentration camps since April 2017. Chinese authorities accuse Uyghurs, and other Muslim minorities in the region, of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideology, which they use to justify their persecution of the minority groups, numbering 1 million to 3 million people.

Reportedly, Uyghurs have not been allowed to return home since being assigned to work in Ghulja’s quarantine centers. This follows news on Wednesday that Uyghurs are being forced out of Xinjiang by the thousands to work in factories elsewhere, in an effort by China to fill gaps in its economy caused by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

The Wuhan coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China at the end of last year. At press time on Thursday, 998,047 infections and 51,335 deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus were reported worldwide.

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