Kazakhstan Denies Asylum To Chinese ‘Reeducation Camps’ Whistleblower

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Kazakhstan has denied asylum to a Chinese national whose court testimony helped expose so-called "reeducation camps" in northwestern China.

Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national, was denied political asylum by a migration committee in the Central Asian nation on October 5.

In August, a court refused to allow her extradition to China for having illegally crossed the border between the two countries, instead giving her a suspended sentence and freeing her from prison.

Sauytbay fled China in April and testified at her trial in Almaty that thousands of ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslims in the northwestern province of Xinjiang were undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of "reeducation camps."

Sauytbay's lawyer Abzal Kuspanov told AFP the decision had been "expected" given the "very strong influence of China" on its close ally Kazakhstan.

He said they would appeal the decision.

The United Nations human rights officials said in August that an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs were being held in "counterextremism centers" in China and millions more have been forced into reeducation camps.

The UN agency said northwestern Xinjiang province had been turned into "something that resembles a massive internment camp."

Sauytbay testified that Chinese authorities had forced her to train "political ideology" instructors for reeducation camps.

That, she said, gave her access to secret documents about what she called a Chinese state program to "reeducate" Muslims from Xinjiang's indigenous ethnic communities -- mainly Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Hui.

Uyghurs are the largest indigenous community in Xinjiang, followed by Kazakhs. The Han, China's largest ethnicity, are the second largest community in Xinjiang.

China has broadly denied such allegations, claiming the country has prevented a great tragedy in the Xinjiang.

Beijing has said the province faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the Uyghurs and Chinese.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.