Wed, 29 Sep 2021

Police in Kazakhstan on July 1 detained activists whom they suspected of planning to mount a picket outside the Chinese consulate in Almaty on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

The moment that Baibolat Kunbolat, an activist with the Nagiz Atajurt movement, whose members have led the fight to document the plight of repressed ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang, was caught on camera and posted on the group's Facebook page. Footage shows Kunbolat struggling with a uniformed police officer restraining him in the back seat of a civilian vehicle.

Kunbolat had been released from jail only two days earlier after serving a one-week sentence of administrative arrest for organizing unauthorized protests outside the Chinese consulate.

Kazakh authorities have been relentless in their campaign to cow Kunbolat.

Last February, Kunbolat, who was born in China but is a naturalized Kazakh national, staged a one-man protest outside the Chinese consulate in Almaty. The demonstration had a single aim: to secure freedom for his brother Baimurat Nauryzbek, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Xinjiang on charges of purportedly inciting racial hatred in online posts.

After he mounted another similar protest this past February, he got a 10-day jail term, slightly longer than the one served out earlier this week.

Little pickets by relatives of people believed to have been detained in Chinese internment camps in Xinjiang have been held daily outside the consulate since that time.

RFE/RL's Kazakh service, Radio Azattyq, reported on July 1 that Kunbolat's 60-year-old mother was also detained at her home in Almaty. The leader of Nagiz Atajurt, Bekzat Maksutkhan, had reportedly also gone missing, presumed to have been detained, on the same day.

When the scale of Chinese repressions in Xinjiang first became apparent some years ago, Kazakhstan sought to pursue a neutral line, for fear of either irking its domestic population or causing the irritation of Beijing. It has latterly adopted a more repressive position toward activists, however, signaling that it has few concerns about the Xinjiang issue's potential for fueling internal dissent.

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