ZHANAOZEN, Kazakhstan -- Dozens of activists have rallied in Kazakhstan's southwestern town of Zhanaozen for the seventh day, protesting against Chinese investments and industrial projects as President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev is getting ready to pay an official two-day visit to Beijing.
The protesters gathered on Zhanaozen's central square on September 9, demanding that the government stop what they called "Chinese expansion" through factories and other projects in the oil-rich former Soviet republic.
The demonstrators urged the government to seek investments in Europe, Japan, and the United States, who, they said, "do not bring tens of thousands of their compatriots to Kazakhstan along with their investments like Chinese companies do."
In recent days, activists in Nur-Sultan, the capital, Almaty, the country's largest city, and several other towns and cities have rallied to express support for the protesters in Zhanaozen, who started the rallies against China's investments on September 2.
Anti-Chinese sentiment in Kazakhstan has been rising amid reports about the plight of indigenous ethnic groups, including Kazakhs, in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.
The United Nations said last year that an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking indigenous people of Xinjiang were being held in what it described as "counterextremism centers" in the province, with millions more reportedly sent to internment camps.
Meanwhile, Kazakh officials are said to be moving ahead on a proposal to build 55 industrial facilities with Chinese financing, furthering fears of corruption, undue Chinese influence, and excessive reliance on Chinese investment.
Kazakhstan sits on huge hydrocarbon reserves and is the largest by territory of the five post-Soviet, Central Asian republics.
But much of the population struggles financially, and critics say major investments never reach most of Kazakhstan's 18 million people.
A recent series of pro-democracy protests has targeted Toqaev, who succeeded longtime President Nursultan Nazarbaev and was officially elected on June 9 in a vote that international observers said was marred by detentions, irregularities, and "scant respect for democratic standards."
Toqaev is scheduled to begin his visit to China on September 11.