ALMATY, Kazakhstan — About a dozen people, mainly women, have picketed the Chinese Consulate in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, to continue to push their demands for the release of relatives held in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang.
The demonstrators on February 22 held pictures of their relatives detained in China and large posters with slogans urging the Chinese government to “end genocide” and release all “innocent people from reeducation camps” in Xinjiang.
“I came here to demand the immediate release of my younger brother, Qalypbek Babam…. He was arrested after he publicly performed a verse called Kazakhs’ Sorrow in 2019 and has been held incommunicado ever since. Authorities in Xinjiang have not given any information about the charges against my brother, while his trial has yet to be held. I am deeply concerned for his life,” one of the protesters, Kumisqan Babam, told RFE/RL.
Another protester, Gulnur Qosdauletqyzy, told RFE/RL that she and some other protesters have been picketing the consulate almost daily for more than two weeks, but no Chinese Consulate officials have come out of the building to meet with them.
Over the weekend, one of the protesters, Baibolat Kunbolatuly, was released from a detention center in Almaty after he served a 10-day prison term he received for “violating the law on mass gatherings” after picketing the consulate earlier.
In recent years, many similar protests have taken place in Kazakhstan, with demonstrators demanding Kazakh authorities officially intervene in the situation faced by ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang.
The U.S. State Department has said as many as 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang’s other indigenous, mostly Muslim, ethnic groups have been taken to detention centers.
China denies that the facilities are internment camps.
People who have fled the province say that thousands of ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang are undergoing “political indoctrination” at a network of facilities known officially as reeducation camps.
Kazakhs are the second-largest Turkic-speaking indigenous community in Xinjiang after Uyghurs. The region is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans. Han, China’s largest ethnicity, is the second-largest community in Xinjiang.