Lhasa’s Covid Lockdown Through Woeser’s Instagram Posts

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a selection of Woeser’s posts from her Instagram account that documents Lhasa as the city went into a strict and severe Covid lockdown at the beginning of August 2022. It has been a lockdown as severe, if not harsher, than seen earlier in the year in Shanghai. During the time Lhasa entered lockdown, Woeser’s mother passed away in Lhasa on August 11, 2022.

Since entering lockdown, the harsh restrictions that have been imposed on Lhasa residents have provoked an unusually vocal outcry. Lhasa residents have taken to social media such as Weibo, WeChat and TikTok (Douyin) to flood these platforms with images and videos of chaotic round ups of residents, shambolic mass testing, food shortages, unsanitary quarantine conditions and angry locals. In an unusual display of contrition, on September 17, 2022, Lhasa’s Vice-Mayor, Damdul, publicly apologised to residents for the mishandling of the Covid lockdown at a press conference and bowed.

There are signs that the city is opening up slowly but the lockdown does still remain in place. Woeser is still actively documenting the situation in Lhasa on her Instagram account, follow her here: https://www.instagram.com/tsering_woeser/


Two news items of today: four people in the Tibetan Autonomous Region have tested positive for Covid-19; the People’s Hospital of Tibet Autonomous Region suspended outpatient service.

And a video from Lhasa shows local Tibetans queuing up to buy tsampa.

#tibet #coronavirus

Responding to someone, a Tibetan netizen replies: I heard that some communities in the northern suburbs have been closed down which has made people panic. In reality, it is not the virus that people are afraid of, but the restrictions and control measures.

Today, everywhere in Lhasa people are standing in queues for Covid testing. (This picture is taken from a WeChat friend circle.)

#lhasa #tibet #coronavirus

The people of Lhasa will stand in queues tonight to do Covid testing. This picture is taken from WeChat.

#lhasa #tibet #coronavirus

1/ Re-posting a few recent photos of Lhasa from Weibo, captioned “Silent Lhasa”.

What is the meaning of “silent”? #lhasa #tibet

2/ Re-posting a few recent photos of Lhasa from Weibo, captioned “Silent Lhasa”.

What is the meaning of “silent”? #lhasa #tibet

Late at night in Lhasa after rain, a second round of “3 Days 3 Tests”, long queues for testing.

(The meaning of “3 Days 3 Tests” is that 3 tests are carried out within the space of 72 hours, each test is 24 hours apart.)


In Lhasa today (August 18), all of a sudden 181 areas were declared high risk and 43 areas were declared medium risk. Looking at the high risk areas, I get the feeling that everywhere in Lhasa is high risk…

The district where I usually live and my mother’s district where I have been living recently have both turned into high risk areas, tests are carried out as per “3 Days 3 Tests”.

At noon, under blue sky and white clouds, under the scorching sun, we lined up for testing… #lhasa #tibet #PandemicSituationInLhasa

At noon, under blue sky and white clouds, under the scorching sun, those of us living in the “high-risk area” line up for Covid testing. Slowly walking towards the “sample gathering area” of the people dressed in white, I saw a brightly colored thangka hanging on the green willow tree by the roadside, depicting a majestic Dharma protector. Oh gods, please protect all beings who are terrified by the epidemic…

#lhasa #tibet #PandemicSituationInLhasa

This is one of the 219 high-risk areas in Lhasa City. It’s also the area my family and I live in. #lhasa

It was said that those living in the high-risk area should not leave the house and workers would go into the house to carry out testing, but now it has been changed to go out of the house and line up to do the test. It’s getting dark.. #lhasa

It’s dark now. The testing isn’t finished yet.

#lhasa #PandemicSituationInLhasa

Today the latest instructions on the epidemic are: “The temporary social controls in place until 3am on August 21 will remain unchanged…” This means that it is unknown when lockdown will be lifted.

The number of high-risk areas has increased to 269, there are 77 medium-risk areas. Looking at the places on the list, it basically includes the residential areas in the south east and north west of Lhasa but does not include the compound where the party, government, military and police are located. Clearly they are very well protected.

We live in a high-risk area and today, for the first time, we had home visit testing. #lhasa #PandemicSituationInLhasa

“3 Days 3 Tests”, “Home Visit Testing”. #lhasa #PandemicSituationInLhasa

Home visit testing in the middle of the night. It’s tough. It’s really too much. #lhasa

During the days of lockdown (which can also be called silence) and queuing, home visit testing and waiting to do tests, our lives are compressed, crushed, and suppressed. Voices in WeChat groups compete to relay concerns about the growing shortage of food and daily necessities or worries about the harmful germs that may be hiding in the garbage all over our residential area. Once in a while someone will post one or two funny sketches or a humorous video but it does not raise a laugh. Anxiety is more contagious than a virus. There’s a video in the chat group of a street-level official wearing a blue N95 mask anxiously saying to a few people dressed in white and blue, “… our street is quiet but things are lively inside, how can this go on? On top of blocking the doors, the important thing is to have quiet on the inside! Don’t you want to go in to test when it’s quiet! If they don’t listen to you, take photos and we will take measures to deal with the issues in another way. … What it is is that we are all out of options now! Day in, day out…” The camera swept past him to show the main gate of the Snowland Pearl Garden residential area, the gate that I knew all too well was blocked off, and what’s more, I’m locked down in New Shol Village where my mother passed, it’s been more than ten days since I couldn’t return to my own home in Snowland Pearl Garden, another area that’s also deemed high-risk. #lhasa #PandemicSituationInLhasa

In The Greatest Killer: Smallpox in History (2002), Donald Hopkins, a medical doctor, wrote about the disaster caused by the smallpox plague in Tibet. According to the records of western explorers, in the 19th century, “after a major smallpox epidemic, Lhasa was ’empty for three years in a row, a city of death.'” But, this must be mistaken. Throughout the 19th century, four venerable Dalai Lamas (9th to 12th) lived in the Potala Palace one after another, and various historical events occurred including the famous Dogra–Tibetan War (1841-1842). Lhasa was never an empty city. According to the Tibetan historian Shakabpa Wangchuk Deden’s works: “Due to the spread of smallpox in Lhasa, the Dalai Lama (probably the 10th) had been living in the Potala Palace and could not go out in the years 1833 and 1834. Regular morning tea sessions and all regular or irregular ritual activities were conducted in front of the Phuntso Dukhang (the east gate of Potala Palace).” Perhaps Hopkins was referring to this period, but even so, it was a big exaggeration. At the time, Lhasa might have looked like today’s locked-down city, where everyone stayed inside or “remained within doors”. But, it was not a “city of death.”

The photos are from Weibo.

Lhasa locked down for 16 days because of the pandemic: an empty city.

(Is this what “social clearance” means?)

Photos taken from the Weibo account “依赖镜头”

#lhasa #PandemicSituationInLhasa

This online map shows the dense “high risk areas” in red. Although now they’re called “lockdown zones”. On August 28, the number of lockdown zones in Lhasa City was adjusted to 165. #lhasa #PandemicSituationInLhasa

On August 29, Lhasa City’s Office of the Leading Group for the Response to the COVID-19 Epidemic issued an announcement: … Lhasa City has basically achieved societal Zero Covid.

#lhasa #PandemicSituationInLhasa


Weibo video of Tibetan villagers braving the rain for testing.

The policy of prevention and control reaches far and wide, the official is saying “no household is left behind, no one is left out”. #tibet #tibetan

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