Chinese Kazakh embassy attempts private meeting with prisoners’ families

Junisbay Nasilbek speaks
about his wife, who has been
detained in Xinjiang since
January. (Photo: ChinaAid)


(Almaty, Kazakhstan—May 6, 2018) On April 29, the Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan attempted to arrange a meeting for the families of men and women detained in the Xinjiang region’s “political training centers.”

Xinjiang, a large region on China’s western border, has been the focus of a widespread persecution campaign against Muslim minority citizens. “Political training centers” is the Communist Party’s official name for a network of detention camps throughout the region, where citizens of Muslim heritage are detained for months without trial, allowed no contact with their families, and subjected to intense “cultural re-education” through propaganda and torture. Tens of thousands have been detained.

Kazakhs in Xinjiang are one of the minorities that have been excessively targeted by this campaign, especially those who have visited or previously lived in Xinjiang. After several attempts by the Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan to convince previous Xinjiang residents to return to China for various reasons, there are many who have been detained upon arrival, forced into the training centers or simply unable to leave due to the confiscation of their travel documents.

Because of this, there are many families who have been separated across the border, with loved ones unable to return to Kazakhstan. Some of these families were contacted by the Chinese embassy, demanding to speak with them after international media began to report about the detentions and human rights abuses. The original plan was to meet with no more than 100 family members on May 3 at the Kazakhstan Hotel, and reporters were strictly forbidden from attending.

Saierkejian Bilaixi, a member of the Atajolt Youth Volunteer Organization, a local human rights group which has closely followed the ongoing situation in Xinjiang, said that the meeting invitation was facilitated by a middleman sent to the families. Bilaixi expressed doubt regarding the sincerity of the embassy’s intentions, asking why they would demand such secrecy regarding the meeting if their intention was to help. He demanded they post the invitation publicly on their official website instead of arranging things through local Chinese associations indirectly.

The embassy then changed the plan, citing Bilaixi’s concerns, and asked instead to meet with families in the Chinese embassy itself, and restricted attendance to 30 people instead of 100. They reiterated, however, that reporters were still not allowed to attend.

“We have submitted many petitions in the past, asking [the Chinese embassy] to solve the problems related to the detention of Kazakhs,” Bilaixi said. “The Xinjiang government has detained a large number of Kazakhstan’s citizens, and their family members have been unjustly treated in China as well. We’ve raised these concerns several times, but the Chinese government never responds.”

Sara Jengisnek speaks to a reporter
about her husband, detained in
a political training center for almost
a year. (Photo: ChinaAid)

Meanwhile, the families of prisoners continue to advocate on behalf of their loved ones. Junisbay Nasilbek immigrated to Kazakhstan with his wife, Arzegul Halambek, in 2008. In January 2018, however, authorities in Nilka County, Xinjiang, sent Halambek a notification that her household registration would be erased unless she returned to Nilka County. Upon arrival, she was placed under house arrest and her passport was confiscated. The police questioned her thoroughly, asking why she had moved to Kazakhstan, how long she had been there, and who she had met with. She has not been allowed to return.

Nasilbek, who is now 66 years old, has to take care of their five children alone in Kazakhstan, sending them to school, cooking, doing all the household chores, and herding. “My family is separated. We immigrated to Kazakhstan from China, and I don’t know why the Chinese government treats us like this. China and Kazakhstan are neighboring countries and business partners. We never imagined going through torture and humiliation for returning to China.”

Another woman, Sara Jengisnek, said that she and her husband immigrated to Kazakhstan in October 2015, but after her husband went back to China on July 30, 2017, he never returned home. “I heard that he’s been sent to a ‘political training center.’ I take care of three children on my own. My son has diabetes, and he has to inject insulin every day. We need money for groceries and medication. Please, help us reunite with my husband.”

ChinaAid reports on instances of persecution, such as the ongoing crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang and Kazakhstan, in order to expose abuses by the Chinese government and promote religious freedom and rule of law.

ChinaAid Media Team
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