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Kazakhs Protest Chinese Money, Influence For Third Day

Protesters rally in Almaty to support recent Zhanaozen protests on September 4.
Protesters rally in Almaty to support recent Zhanaozen protests on September 4.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Protesters in Kazakhstan have gathered for a third day to pressure President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev to cancel a planned trip to neighboring China over perceived corruption and mounting Chinese influence through financial assistance to the former Soviet republic.

Dozens of demonstrators turned up outside the offices of the head of local government in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, on September 4 to express support for related protests the previous day in the western city of Zhanaozen and several other cities.

They are demanding a stop to "Chinese expansion" through factories and other projects in oil-rich Kazakhstan.

A meeting with protesters by a deputy to the regional leader failed to disperse the crowd in Almaty.

Anti-Chinese sentiment in Kazakhstan has been rising in recent months 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 popular fears of corruption, undue Chinese influence, and excessive reliance on Chinese investment.

Toqaev is scheduled to pay an official two-day visit to Beijing starting on September 11.

The most recent anti-Chinese protests kicked off on September 2 in Zhanaozen, scene of a deadly crackdown on striking oil workers in 2011.

Subsequent demonstrations have invoked the Zhanaozen events while decrying Chinese money and demanding a thorough overhaul of Kazakhstan's power structures.

Dozens of protesters gathered on September 3 in the capital, Nur-Sultan, as well as in Aqtobe, in western Kazakhstan, and Shymkent in the south.

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."

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