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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

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Dec 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Why some Asian countries keep building coal plants

Coal-fired power's persistence in Asia is a big climate problem, but the reasons some countries can't quit coal — even as other parts of the world are gradually breaking up with the fuel — aren't always so obvious.

Driving the news: Enter a new paper in Energy Research & Social Science that explores what's driving demand for China's financing of coal-fired power plants in the region, even as other power sources are cost-competitive.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

3 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

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