China Starving Out 13 Million Trapped at Epicenter of Coronavirus Outbreak

This photo taken on December 28, 2021 shows a sanitation worker sweeping a deserted road i
STR/AFP via Getty Images

Residents of the Chinese city of Xi’an took to social media on Thursday to plead for help, as they are running out of food and other necessities under a strict coronavirus lockdown order.

Imprisoned citizens furiously accused local officials of being dangerously unprepared for the lockdown.

With the understanding that no Chinese Communist government statement about coronavirus cases should be accepted at state value, officials claimed all but one of the 156 new coronavirus cases logged in China on Wednesday originated in Xi’an. 

Nearly the entire city of 13 million people was locked down a week ago, supposedly due to 143 coronavirus infections. Most public activities were suspended, travel outside the city was forbidden, and one member of each family was allowed to make a trip for groceries every two days.

Authorities tightened restrictions even further Monday, prohibited migrant workers from returning home to see their families during the New Year holiday, and an army of technicians clad in hazmat suits blasted the entire city with disinfectant, a bizarre spectacle conducted with only a few hours of warning to miserable residents.

Complaints against local officials for mismanaging the lockdown began almost immediately and reached a fever pitch on Thursday when the South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted complaints from Xi’an residents who are beginning to starve.

“This is getting more and more ridiculous. I never thought in my lifetime I would be unable to sleep because of not having food to eat,” one unhappy camper said on Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter.

“I’m about to be starved to death. There’s no food, my housing compound won’t let me out, and I’m about to run out of instant noodles … please help!” said another.

“How do we live? What do we eat? Days ago, we could go out once to buy groceries but that’s been canceled. All online grocery apps are either sold out or beyond the delivery range,” complained another Weibo correspondent. In addition to delivering late, online grocery stores are reportedly charging very high prices for the food they have in stock. 

Insider on Thursday found the Chinese Communist government dealing with these social media complaints by the time-honored tactic of deleting them. Censors managed to erase a Weibo hashtag, #DifficultToBuyFoodInXiAn, that had over 300 million views.

Local media reported the police have arrested at least seven people for “disrupting” quarantine orders and “fabricating rumors about excessive deaths in the province and reports of looting in the region.” 

People caught outside without permission could spend up to ten days in jail. Photos from ground and air show the huge city of Xi’an eerily deserted, its roads and train stations empty.

The SCMP quoted city and national officials promising to get food to Xi’an – or in some cases pretending there is no real crisis in Xi’an, no matter how many hungry insomniacs might be begging for help on Weibo:

[Commerce Ministry] spokesman Gao Feng on Thursday said the ministry had been coordinating with six neighboring provinces to ensure the supply of daily necessities, while the commerce department in Xian was also working to make sure demand is met.

“The Ministry of Commerce is working together with local government departments, with further measures to ensure deliveries are made and grocery prices are stable by responding to changes brought by the pandemic and [market] supply and demand,” Gao said at a regular press briefing.

“I don’t want to hear any more about how everything is fine,” a starving Xi’an resident snapped. “So what if supplies are so abundant – they’re useless if you don’t actually give them to people.”

AFP on Wednesday quoted city officials admitting “low staff attendance and difficulties in logistics and distribution” made it difficult to get supplies to the huge number of quarantined residents.


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