Sep 1, 2020 - World

Xinjiang residents reportedly forced to take medicine amid coronavirus fight

The China flag in a plus sign.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Rumors have swirled for months that local authorities pressed residents of Xinjiang, a far northwestern region in China, to take traditional Chinese medicine during the coronavirus pandemic. Now a new report from the Associated Press based on interviews, public notices and social media posts suggests this may be true.

Why it matters: Forcing an entire population to take medicine that has not been clinically proven to be effective against the coronavirus could be a breach of medical ethics.

What's happening: Chinese authorities have implemented a lockdown across Xinjiang that is extreme even by China's standards. Residents have been locked inside their own homes amid a strict quarantine that has lasted 40 days — even though the number of reported cases in Xinjiang remains relatively low.

Details: The medicine that some residents told the AP they have been forced to swallow in the presence of medical staff and under the threat of detention is called Lianhua Qingwen.

  • It's an herbal medicine produced by a company that has seen its shares rise dramatically in value in the past six months.

The big picture: Under Xi Jinping, China has increasingly sought to push traditional Chinese medicine both domestically and abroad.

  • It may be mostly about money. As AP's Dake Kang wrote, "The Chinese government’s push for traditional medicine, given free to Xinjiang residents, is bolstering the fortunes of billionaires and padding state coffers."

Go deeper: Beijing looks to criminalize "defaming" traditional Chinese medicine

Go deeper