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Two Ethnic Kazakhs From China's Xinjiang Receive Asylum-Seeker Status In Kazakhstan

Qaster Musakhanuly (left) and Murager Alimuly speak to the press in Almaty on October 14.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Two ethnic Kazakhs from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang have been given asylum-seeker status in Kazakhstan.

Lawyer Bauyrzhan Azanov told RFE/RL on October 29 that the decision to give Murager Alimuly and Qaster Musakhanuly asylum-seeker status had been made by Kazakhstan's immigration police. ID cards confirming the status will be given to the two Chinese citizens later in the day, Azanov said.

Musakhanuly, 30 and Alimuly, 25, illegally crossed the Chinese-Kazakh border on October 1.

On October 14, the two held a news conference in Kazakhstan’s largest city, 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 2018, 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 in an Almaty court that thousands of ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang were undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of "reeducation camps."

She testified 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 obtained asylum in Sweden.

Kazakhs are the second-largest Turkic-speaking indigenous community in Xinjiang after Uyghurs, and 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.

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