Ethnic Kazakh From Xinjiang Receives Asylum-Seeker Status In Ukraine

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

A Chinese citizen of ethnic Kazakh origin from China's northwestern province of Xinjiang told RFE/RL that he has obtained asylum seeker status in Ukraine.

Ersin Erkinuly, 23, said on December 8 that he was released from custody in Ukraine's western city of Lviv a day earlier after a local appeals court canceled the November 8 decision of a lower court to deport him back to China.

Erkinuly also said that he plans to move to Kyiv, where a local Kazakh community is waiting for him.

Ukrainian border guards arrested Erkinuly in October when he tried to cross into Poland without proper documents.

Erkinuly said at the time that he had lost his Chinese passport and insisted that he would face torture and prison time if he is deported to China.

In recent years, many ethnic Kazakhs have fled Xinjiang, fearing placement in detention centers that Beijing says are reeducation camps.

In October, Kazakh authorities gave refugee status to four ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang, after they illegally crossed Chinese-Kazakh border.

The U.S. State Department has said 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.

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.