ASTANA -- Dozens of Kazakh activists staged a protest today in front of the Chinese Embassy in Almaty against the planned leasing of Kazakh land to China, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev told a session of the Foreign Investors Council on December 4 that China had asked to lease 1 million hectares of Kazakh farm land. But Chinese Ambassador to Kazakhstan Cheng Guoping said at a press conference on December 9 that he is unaware of any negotiations between the two countries on this issue.
Nazarbaev said at the foreign investors meeting that China asked the Kazakh government to provide land for soybean and rapeseed cultivation.
Some analysts believe he made the statement about China in an effort to encourage Western companies to invest in Kazakhstan's agricultural
Meanwhile, Kazakh Deputy Agriculture Minister Arman Yevniev told RFE/RL that Western countries did not make any concrete investment proposals to Kazakhstan after the meeting.
Investors are reportedly unwilling to engage in the Kazakh agricultural sector because of its climate and undeveloped transport infrastructure.
Yevniev added that Kazakhstan is ready to provide some 3.5 million hectares of farmland to foreign investors.
He said China has a great demand for soybeans and some Kazakh regions -- South Kazakhstan, Jambyl, and East Kazakhstan -- could be used to grow soybeans.
Chinese expert Murat Auezov told RFE/RL he is worried that China's proposal is fueled by "a desire to come to this land." Auezov said a positive decision by the Kazakh government in favor of China could lead to the "Chinese colonization of Kazakhstan."
He said this agricultural project would encourage the mass migration of Chinese people to Kazakhstan and added that government officials should deal with China "carefully."
Meanwhile, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry reported that Chinese President Hu Jintao and Nazarbaev will attend the opening ceremony on December 12-13 for the Kazakhstan-China gas pipeline's first line and the preliminary completion of the second leg.