Uyghurs in Xinjiang die after being poisoned by Covid disinfectant

Residents wearing masks walk along the streets of Aksu in western China's Xinjiang region - Ng Han Guan /AP
Residents wearing masks walk along the streets of Aksu in western China's Xinjiang region - Ng Han Guan /AP

At least 13 Uyghurs in Xinjiang have died after being poisoned by Covid disinfectant sprayed inside their fridges and on their bedding, according to reports.

They are among thousands of people in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region allegedly suffering the effects of poisoning due to the measures.

Coronavirus infections in the area have surged in recent weeks, with parts of Xinjiang under strict lockdown as part of China’s “zero Covid” policy.

Videos circulating online show officials hosing down entire homes, while residents claim planes have flown over spraying the area on numerous occasions since lockdown began in the summer.

“I am told it is about 12 or 13 [who died],” a local official from a village in Pishan county told Radio Free Asia. “It happened on Sept 20.”

The anonymous official said his relative, the wife of one of his cousins, was among the dead. “Her name was Atihan. She was a housewife between the ages of 45 and 50,” he said.

Five others from one family were also killed, according to the official.

“A woman named Atahaji died along with her daughter, two grandchildren and one daughter-in-law - five of them,” he said.

Long-term use of disinfectants harmful to health

Another local claimed that his 24-year-old son had been arrested for refusing to have his home disinfected.

“This is what the community is going through,” he told Radio Free Asia. “There is nothing to eat, and the whole community has been knocked out by [authorities’] spraying the so-called disinfectant. We all don't know what will happen tomorrow when we wake up.”

Studies show that the long-term use of disinfectants used in Covid measures can be harmful to health.

High concentrations of disinfectant can cause serious illness as well as injuries to the skin, eyes, respiratory tract, nervous system and digestive tract.

The predominately Muslim Uyghurs and other minority populations in Xinjiang have suffered under a crackdown on human rights since 2017, with thousands detained by the Chinese authorities.

In August a report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the oppression in the region “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity”.