Protesters Demand Release Of Kazakh Man Jailed Over Chinese Consulate Rallies

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Dozens have rallied in front of a district police station in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, demanding the immediate release of a man who was sentenced to 15 days in jail for taking part in the pickets in front of the Chinese Consulate for more than four months to demand the release of relatives held in China.

Around 30 protesters on June 24 gathered in front of the headquarters of the Medeu district police chanting "Freedom! Freedom!" in support of Baibolat Kunbolat, who was found guilty of "organizing an unsanctioned rally" and handed his sentence two days earlier.

Police officers met with the protesters and asked them to leave the site saying that Kunbolat is serving his sentence in another location.

The protesters refused to leave and later on a district prosecutor came to the site telling the demonstrators that their rally was illegal.

The protesters ignored the prosecutor and signed a petition addressed to President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev and the United Nations, demanding their right to publicly request that China respects their demands to release their relatives.

In recent years, many 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.