AT-BASHI, Kyrgyzstan -- Hundreds of people gathered near the village of At-Bashi in Kyrgyzstan's central Naryn region on February 17 to protest against a Chinese project in the area.
The protest -- which included demonstrators riding on horseback -- is the latest in a series of public rallies against Beijing's growing presence in the Central Asian country.
The protesters, some of whom were on horses, demanded that Kyrgyzstan's central government cancel the planned construction of a $275-million logistics center that had been agreed on during Chinese President Xi Jinping's 2019 visit to Kyrgyzstan.
Protest organizers say more than 2,000 people took part in the rally. But the government’s envoy to the region, Emilbek Alymkulov, downplayed the size of the crowd --- saying 700 to 800 people took part.
Alymkulov said Kyrgyzstan's government will issue a response to the demands of the demonstrators.
Protesters on February 17 held large banners, declaring: "We Are Against the Logistics Center," and "No Kyrgyz Land To China!"
Since January, there have been several protests against the Chinese investment project.
The logistics center is expected to house a network of small businesses and production facilities that will be given some trade benefits.
In August 2019, similar protests led to violent clashes between Kyrgyz villagers and Chinese employees at a Chinese-owned mine in Naryn. About 20 people were injured in those clashes, mostly Chinese workers.
Anti-Chinese sentiment in Kazakhstan has been rising in recent months amid reports about the plight of indigenous ethnic groups in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang including ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Kyrgyz people.
The United Nations estimated in 2019 that 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking indigenous people in Xinjiang were being held in what Beijing describes as "counterextremism centers" in the province.
The UN also said millions more people have been forced into internment camps in China.
China describes the camps as "vocational education centers" aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism and allowing them to be reintegrated into society.
In recent months, a series of demonstrations against reeducation camps for indigenous ethnic groups in Xinjiang were staged in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and the Russia's Republic of Tatarstan.
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