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Kazakh Police Detain Activists Involved In Xinjiang Protests Outside Chinese Consulate

A protest near the Chinese Consulate in Almaty in March
A protest near the Chinese Consulate in Almaty in March

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Police in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, have detained several activists who have been involved in ongoing pickets in front of the Chinese Consulate to demand the release of their relatives held in China's Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Baqyt Sembai, a wife of one of the protesters, told RFE/RL that police arrested her husband and his mother while they were at home on July 1.

Locked Up In China: The Plight Of Xinjiang's Muslims

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is partnering with its sister organization, Radio Free Asia, to highlight the plight of Muslims living in China's western province of Xinjiang.

Baibolat Kunbolat, Sembai's husband, had been released from jail two days earlier after being detained for filming a rally in front of the Chinese Embassy. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail after a court in Almaty found him guilty of "organizing an unsanctioned rally."

A court reduced his sentence by half after dozens of people protested his imprisonment.

Nurgul Ibraeva, the wife of the leader of the Real Volunteers of the Fatherland group, Bekzat Maqsutkhan, told RFE/RL that police also detained her husband on July 1. Maqsutkhan's group has been actively raising the issue of the plight faced by ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang for years.

Last week, several women were fined for their participation in the picketing of the Chinese Consulate in Almaty.

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 that 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, but people who have fled the province say people from the groups 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.

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