ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh opposition activists have called on the authorities of the Central Asian nation to halt the deportation to China of two ethnic Kazakhs from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.
Zhanbolat Mamai, Yrysbek Toqtasyn, and Tolegen Zhukeev told reporters in Almaty on December 9 that the two ethnic Kazakhs from China, Murager Alimuly and Qaster Musakhanuly, will "definitely" face torture and possible death if handed over to Beijing.
Last week, Darkhan Dilmanov, the deputy chief of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee, said that the two ethnic Kazakhs from China will be deported.
The activists, who called themselves "initiators of a future Democratic Party of Kazakhstan," said that the country’s "duty is to protect rights of ethnic Kazakhs around the world."
Alimuly and Musakhanuly, who are currently in pretrial detention for illegally crossing the Chinese-Kazakh border, were granted asylum-seeker status in October.
Before their arrest, the two held a news conference in Almaty, where they told reporters that Alimuly was subjected to persecution in Xinjiang while Musakhanuly had spent several years in a so-called "reeducation camp" in the region.
In August last year, the United Nations said an estimated 1 million Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim indigenous ethnic groups in Xinjiang were being held in "counterextremism centers."
The UN said millions more had been forced into reeducation camps. China denies that the facilities are internment camps.
In August 2018, a court in Almaty refused to extradite Sairagul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese citizen who was wanted in China for illegal border crossing.
Sauytbay fled China in April and testified that thousands of ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang were undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of "reeducation camps."
She added that Chinese authorities had forced her to train "political ideology" instructors for reeducation camps, giving her access to secret documents about what she called a state program to "reeducate" Muslims from indigenous ethnic communities.
Although she was not extradited to China, Kazakh authorities did not allow Sauytbay to stay in Kazakhstan and she eventually was granted asylum in Sweden.
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, are the second-largest community in Xinjiang.