|A group of men patrol in Xinjiang, holding
sticks as weapons. (Photo: ChinaAid)
(Astana, Kazakhstan—March 1, 2018) Authorities in China’s far western Xinjiang Autonomous Region have begun trying to coerce Kazakh individuals who have left China to return for administrative reasons. Due to the nature of these requests, many Kazakhs believe this campaign is meant to trap Kazakhs in China and confiscate their travel documents.
On Feb. 26, the Chinese embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan, issued a “special reminder” over a public WeChat account to Kazakh citizens who had previously lived in China. The reminder stated that these individuals needed to return to China to officially cancel their registered permanent residence, and that any who failed to comply would lose their certification of Chinese citizenship.
The request stands out, as China automatically revokes citizenship of Chinese citizens who apply for citizenship with another country or who settle permanently abroad. Therefore, the majority of those who received the message are permanent Kazakhstan rezidents or those who have applied for citizenship in Kazakhstan, and have already lost their Chinese citizenship.
Many who received the message fear that it is a trap.
“The Chinese Nationality Law clearly states that anyone who acquires a foreign nationality will automatically lose their Chinese nationality,” one anonymous Kazakh explained. “But now, the Chinese government demands that these people who have become citizens of Kazakhstan should go back and cancel the accounts [of their household residences in China]. This is troublesome, as their documents may be taken away from them if they return.”
A married couple, Reyiza Kawan and Yusan Baban, previously lived in Changji, Xinjiang, but had moved to Kazakhstan. On Sept. 25, 2017, Yusan returned to China to visit his mother when she fell ill. Yusan, who holds a Kazakhstan green card, was detained upon arrival in Xinjiang. Authorities confiscated his green card and placed him under house arrest with his relatives in Changji, because he attempted to use his original Chinese passport after being denied a visa. Reyiza and Yusan have three children in Kazakhstan.
An anonymous Kazakh said that in November 2017, after he immigrated to Kazakhstan from China, officials began threatening his mother back in China. Eventually she was forced to officially disown him as her son in the eyes of the state so that his permanent resident status could be revoked. If she had not signed the papers, she was told her son would be punished for “the crime of dual-citizenship” and forbidden from returning to China.
Additionally, a 21-year-old Kazakh woman living in China, Shalitanati Mulati, was arrested in May 2017, for using her mobile phone to talk with Kazakhs outside the country. When her family attempted to learn about her condition and where she was being held, the public security bureau refused to give any information. Her whereabouts are still unknown.
ChinaAid reports on instances of human rights abuses, such as the arbitrary arrests of Kazakh and Chinese citizens and improper confiscations of official documents, in order to combat corruption within the Chinese government and promote rule of law and human rights.