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Kazakh Police Break Up Protest Over Rising Inflation, Chinese Investment

Kazakh Police Clash With Activists Protesting Rising Chinese Influence
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ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A small-scale demonstration in Kazakhstan's largest city to protest rising prices and growing Chinese influence has ended in skirmishes with police.

The unsanctioned demonstration in central Almaty on July 6 was organized by Zhanbolat Mamai, the leader of a group seeking to create the opposition Democratic Party.

Several dozen supporters came out in support of Mamai as they chanted for Nursultan Nazarbaev, the former authoritarian president who is still considered to rule the country from behind the scenes, to "leave."

The protest coincided with Capital Day, a holiday that lands on the birthday of Nazarbaev, who turned 81.

Mamai claimed that prices for necessary household goods are rising faster than the official inflation data and accused the government of deepening the country's dependence on China.

Police called on the protesters to end the unsanctioned rally and blocked their movement, resulting in skirmishes. A few people received minor injuries and at least three were detained, according to Mamai's wife, Inga Imanbai.

Mamai, who was convicted on money-laundering charges that he and his supporters say were politically motivated, has organized demonstrations in the past and been detained.

Zhanbolat Mamai speaks at the rally in Almaty in September 2020.
Zhanbolat Mamai speaks at the rally in Almaty in September 2020.

The activist has been trying to create the Democratic Party, but claims he is being foiled by the government, which he says only permits loyal parties to form.

His Democratic Party was legally registered by the Justice Ministry in December 2020, but the group was unable to hold a congress in February because party activists had been arrested and detained.

Kazakh law requires that a party's founding congress be attended by at least 1,000 people.

Kazakhstan has been run along an authoritarian line by Nazarbaev and his successor, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, since gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

During their rule many opposition figures have been jailed or forced to flee the country.