Russian-American scholar Yevgeny (Gene) Bunin, known for raising awareness over the situation faced by indigenous peoples in China's northwestern province of Xinjiang, says he has been banned from entering Kazakhstan for five years.
Bunin wrote on Facebook that he was refused entrance to the Central Asian state when he arrived there by plane on September 4 from neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where he had stayed for a month "without any problem whatsoever."
According to Bunin, he was informed by a passport-control official that he could not enter Kazakhstan, as he was banned for five years for unspecified reasons, and recommended Bunin speak with the Foreign Ministry for an explanation.
"Congratulations, Kazakhstan, on your path down to authoritarian hell," Bunin wrote.
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Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov was not available for immediate comment on the situation.
In 2019 and 2020, Bunin was also denied entry to Uzbekistan.
China is a major trading partner in Central Asia, where the authorities and state-controlled media have generally avoided the issue of the internment camps in a bid to smooth relations with Beijing.
Bunin, who holds Russian and U.S. citizenship, is known for his research work focusing on the violation of the human rights of Xinjiang's indigenous peoples -- Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and others.
He is a founder and administrator of the Shahit.biz website that documents thousands of cases of repression by Chinese authorities against indigenous ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
In recent years, many protests by Kazakhs demanding official intervention in the situation faced by ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang have taken place.
The U.S. State Department has said that as many as 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang's other indigenous, mostly Muslim ethnic groups have been confined to detention centers.
China denies that the facilities are internment camps, but people who have fled the province say people from the ethnic groups are undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of facilities officially referred to as reeducation camps.
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, is the second-largest community in Xinjiang.