Chinese ‘surveillance pigeon’ discovered near Kazakhstan as detentions, blockades continue

A picture of the devices around the bird’s
legs, a GPS tracker and a listening device.
(Photo: ChinaAid)


(Khorgas, Xinjiang—May 5, 2018) On a border town between China’s far western Xinjiang region and Kazakhstan, Kazakh guards discovered a pigeon with a GPS and listening device attached to its legs on April 22.

According to a human rights organization in Kazakhstan, the bird was found in Khorgas, a city on the Chinese side of the border. An unidentified person spotted devices on the bird’s legs, and after capturing it, found serial numbers on both. Additionally, the bird’s wings were faintly sprayed with the Chinese characters “边防工作” meaning “border security work.”

A video of the bird can be found below.

The guards who initially captured the bird did not speak Chinese, and had to find Kazakhs who knew Chinese to interpret the characters. According to the local Kazakhs, similarly equipped pigeon spies were found in Russia as well. Additionally, Russia stopped importing steam irons, cell phones, and phone chargers from China after Chinese listening devices were discovered in the exports.

In recent months, Xinjiang has been a hotbed of conflict between the Communist government and Muslim minorities in the region. Chinese Kazakhs have been targeted particularly harshly, as the Kazakh language is forbidden from appearing on signs, imports from Kazakhstan are not allowed to be sold in stores, and officers raid Kazakh homes raided to remove all cultural or religious decorations and objects, ordering the residents to decorate with a ‘Chinese’ style instead.

Additionally, any Xinjiang residents who travel to Kazakhstan face increased danger. Those who return to China are often detained, either under house arrest or placed in one of the “political training center” detention camps throughout Xinjiang to be taught Communist propaganda. Officials also confiscate the travel documents of anyone who has visited Kazakhstan, preventing them from leaving the country. In many cases, this leaves families broken as an individual is trapped in China, unable to rejoin their family living in Kazakhstan.

China also attempts to lure former Chinese citizens to return from Kazakhstan, such as visiting a Kazakh university to urge students who moved from China to return after their studies, to the issuing of warnings over social media that residents who moved from Xinjiang should return to change their residence information in person. Many believe these methods are traps, as those who do return are usually arrested and have their passports confiscated. Chinese ambassadors also, saying that they had a “responsibility to serve their country” and that the Chinese government would protect them.

In a tragic case, on March 8, a Kazakh man committed suicide in Xinjiang after his passport was taken and he was unable to return to his wife and children in Kazakhstan for months.

Ahjol Nokei holds a paper with information
about his father, who has been detained almost
a year in Xinjiang. (Photo: ChinaAid)

Recently, an eight-year-old Kazakh boy named Ahjol Nokei sent a plea to the president of Kazakhstan to ask him to intervene on behalf of his father, Nokei Jengishan, who has been unable to leave China for almost a year. Ahjol and his mother currently live in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where life has been difficult without Nokei.

Ahjol hoped that if he and his mother were granted Kazakh citizenship, China would be pressured to return his father to them. “The Chinese police arrested [my father] after he went to China in July 2017, and he never returned to us,” Ahjol wrote. “I hope President Nursultan Nazarbayev can help rescue my dad. I am severely ill now. I need treatment and medicine. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, please help us obtain Kazakhstan citizenship.”

As the restrictions and detentions against minority citizens increase in severity, officials have begun blockading counties to try to stop news from getting out of what’s really happening. Previously, Emin County was blocked at the end of April, and now Toli County has also been restricted. Guards are posted at every highway into the city, turning away all Kazakhs, even those with valid Chinese visas.

ChinaAid reports on religious persecution, such as the inhumane treatment of Kazakhs in Xinjiang, in order to expose abuses committed by the Chinese government against its citizens and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.

ChinaAid Media Team
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