An image of Leila Alsilzhan, a Kazakhs who faced discrimination.

Beijing Olympic Games: Bloody Kazakhstan and Xinjiang Ethnic Kazakhs

Adilzhan Laila, wife of Serikzhan Bilash
Photo: Bitter Winter

Beijing Olympic Games: Bloody Kazakhstan and Xinjiang Ethnic Kazakhs 

By Adilzhan Laila

As the Beijing Olympics approach, the plight of Kazakhs in Xinjiang has worsened.  Public and confidential complaints to Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights confirm this.  In the Kazakh-populated Ili, Altai, Tarbagatai, Buratala, and Sanji, able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 were forcibly relocated to inner China.  Chinese authorities interpret this as “employment.”  The Chinese government’s propaganda to local Kazakhs in Wechat groups describes this as “offering work opportunities for the surplus labor force that is unemployed in the countryside.”  According to Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights, the average self-employed individual entrepreneur and the average Kazakh businessman, who employs about a dozen or thirty people, have also been forced to “work” in China for meager wages.  If they do not go and thank the authorities for “finding work”, they are openly warned that they will be imprisoned in political re-education camps under the pretext that “there is a problem with the idea.”

A Kazakh businessman who came to Kazakhstan from the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture says he has several large restaurants.  His monthly net income is much higher than 100,000 yuan (~17,000 USD).  The total number of permanent and temporary employees in its restaurants is more than fifty.  This entrepreneur was able to pay so many people a monthly salary of 2,000-6,000 yuan (~320-1,000 USD).


However, the local authorities forcibly “arranged” him to live in Guangdong Province.  He works at a paint factory there with a 1,500 yuan (~238 USD) salary.  It is well known that no one in China works for such a low salary.

They also sent him to a shop producing ceramic floors, then a textile factory. His wife was sent to another province. 

As for their children, there were only two options: send them to the large-scale child care centers built by the government in Xinjiang or let the children be raised by their grandparents.

Authorities confiscated the pastures of nomadic Kazakh herdsmen.  Chinese authorities forcibly confiscated “pasture use certificates” from the hands of Kazakh nomadic herders.  The nomadic pastoral life of the Kazakhs, which has been going on for thousands of years, has been completely destroyed.

These nomadic herders or their relatives still complain to Atajurt Human Rights about the confiscated land, totaling close to 10,000 reports.  In some places, the Chinese government confiscated private pastures owned by nomadic herders under the false pretext of “protecting the environment and restoring pastures” and would instead be paid a very small “pasture fee” every year.  According to the Kazakh complainant, this small payment has not been paid since 2017.

These lands are rich in water, grass, forests, rivers, and lakes.  The Communist Party’s plan is to relocate the Han-Chinese from inner China to these areas in northern Xinjiang.  There is a shortage of water with dry and hot weather in southern Xinjiang, a historically Uyghur territory. The Chinese from inner China cannot adapt to these conditions, and it is impossible to bring in a large number of Han-Chinese from inner China to South Xinjiang with almost no land to use. 

This is why the Chinese authorities are arresting nomadic Kazakhs on a large scale.  The CCP needs vast land in the hands of the Kazakhs.

The unrest in Kazakhstan in January 2022 frightened the Chinese Communist Party.  They are well aware that during the Nazarbayev regime, not a single TV, radio, newspaper, or website in Kazakhstan raised the issue of persecution of Kazakhs in Xinjiang.

Nazarbayev said, “This is China’s internal affair, we can’t interfere in it.” As soon as Tokayev became president, he said, “The information that ethnic Kazakhs in China are being held in Xinjiang concentration camps is a lie”. The bloody events of January frightened Chinese authorities.  They saw that whom they had confidently called “our backyard-Kazakhstan” for 30 years was easily conquered by Putin.  Now there is no former pro-Beijing, pro-Chinese Kazakhstan.  Instead, there was Kazakhstan, which was directly ruled by Moscow and became part of Russia.  Putin will now decide the price of oil and gas from Kazakhstan to China. In Nazarbayev’s time, the price of oil and gas to China was a secret.


Angry Kazakhs are likely to burn down and destroy Chinese factories in Kazakhstan.  Kazakhs in Kazakhstan have long been dissatisfied with China.  They will never forget the Kazakh lands Ili, Altai, and Tarbagatai, which were conquered by China during the Qing Empire.  China knows this.  The brutal persecution of Kazakhs in Xinjiang during the reign of Xi Jinping is particularly outrageous.  China knows this too.  The Chinese Communists are well aware that Kazakhs in Kazakhstan, no matter how concerned they were about the situation of their brothers in Xinjiang, were forced to remain silent during the Nazarbayev regime.  Now the situation may change.  The ” Belt and Road”  plan is at stake in Kazakhstan.  The future of the pro-Beijing forces, which have been squandering huge sums of money for the last 30 years, is bleak in Kazakhstan.

Large-scale unrest in Kazakhstan forced the CCP to immediately change its tough stance against Xinjiang Kazakhs.

There is a lot of good news about Kazakhs in Xinjiang on Chinese TV channels.  The friendship of nations began to be glorified.  This “happy, prosperous life” of Kazakhs in Xinjiang is constantly covered by the Chinese media.  Even though it is known that YouTube will not be available in China, a network of Kazakh YouTubers has emerged, showing that Kazakhs in Xinjiang are “living happily under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party.”

All this can be understood as China’s concern for the well-being of its plants and oil and gas pipelines in Kazakhstan.

Is it possible for Putin to pursue an anti-Chinese policy in Kazakhstan? No one knows.

The territory of Kazakh nomadic people has constantly fought both the Chinese and Russian empires since the conquest of the East and West. Now, the region is full of many uncertainties.

The Western Countries and America have long forgotten the promises they made when the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan became three nuclear-armed states.  Where are the Western countries’ promises when it persuaded Ukraine and Kazakhstan to give up nuclear weapons, guaranteeing territorial integrity and security?!

In Kazakhstan, Putin is the only winner.  Xi Jinping is the loser.  Western countries are the undisputed losers in Kazakhstan.  Putin’s Russia has conquered an independent country while the whole world focused on the Russia-Ukraine border. This is obvious.  Russian troops have not withdrawn from Kazakhstan.  They only wore the uniform of the Army of Kazakhstan.  The West has always been weak in the face of Xi Jinping and Putin.  They never go to concrete actions.  CCP and Putin well know it. So Xi Jinping and Putin could do anything to Kazakhs.

Note: Atajurt Human Rights interviewed some of the nomadic herders whose land was confiscated. Find the interviews here.

Adilzhan Laila is the wife of Serikzhan Bilash, leader of Atajurt Human Rights in Kazakhstan. ChinaAid recently rescued her and her family to the Netherlands.

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