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A protest by relatives of Xinjiang detainees in Almaty in October.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan – Police in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, have detained six protesters who were demanding the release of relatives they say are being illegally held in China.

The November 29 rallies in front of the Chinese Consulate in Almaty were the latest in a series of demonstrations in Kazakhstan linked to the massive detention of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the neighboring Chinese province of Xinjiang.

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.

One of the detained persons, Gulfia Qazybek, managed to call RFE/RL and said that she was being transported to a hospital to treat injuries to her hand that she sustained while being forced into a police car. She added that she was taken to a police station along with three other women, Khalida Aqytkhan, Zhamila Maken, Gauhar Qurmanghalieva, and two men, Baibolat Kunbolatuly and Nurzat Ermekbai.

Demonstrators have demanded Kazakh authorities do more to protect ethnic Kazakhs who have been caught up in the Chinese sweep. Kazakhstan’s government, however, has been wary of angering Beijing, which is a major investor in Kazakhstan and throughout Central Asia.

As many as 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang's other indigenous, mostly Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic groups have been taken to detention centers in the western Chinese region, according to the U.S. State Department.

China denies that the facilities are internment camps, but people who have fled the province say that thousands are undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of facilities known officially as reeducation camps.

After Kazakhstan gained independence following the Soviet collapse in 1991, many ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang and elsewhere resettled in Kazakhstan, as part of a state program.

Many obtained permanent residence or citizenship but continue to visit Xinjiang either to see relatives or for bureaucratic reasons. Some have reportedly facing pressure from Chinese authorities or even arrest and imprisonment.

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.

China's largest ethnicity, the Han, is the second-largest ethnic group in Xinjiang.

Sergei Samborsky (file photo)

A Russian man who disguised himself as a medical worker so he could treat his COVID-19-stricken grandmother and reveal the bleak picture of how coronavirus patients were being treated in a hospital in the Siberian city of Tomsk has fled the country fearing for his safety.

Sergei Samborsky told The Insider investigative group on November 28 that he is currently in Georgia after leaving Russia.

In October, after he was not allowed to see his hospitalized 84-year-old grandmother, Samborsky dressed up in protective gear to look like a hospital worker. This enabled him access to his grandmother, Yulia Yemelyashina.

Samborsky posted a shocking video of his grandmother in the hospital, showing her unconscious, covered in bruises and bedsores while lying on a urine-soaked mattress.

The video caused a public outcry. Yemelyashina died days later.

Samborsky filed a lawsuit against the hospital director, Aleksandr Kholopov, accusing him of failing to organize proper conditions for treating COVID-19 patients, which lead directly to the death of his grandmother.

Since then, Samborsky says he was forced to leave his job.

He says he has also received threats from unknown people by phone and that local prosecutors summoned him for questioning, hinting that the video he had taken in the hospital had been doctored to "discredit the Health Ministry."

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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