The persecution of national minorities in China, including Uighurs, Kyrgyz and Kazakhs, was announced in 2018 by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. According to experts, the Chinese authorities have organized “political re-education camps” for Uighurs who are adherents of the Sunni trend of Islam.

According to numerous media reports and human rights activists, in addition to forced labor, sterilization of women, violence and torture take place in Xinjiang.

Official Beijing, in turn, refutes all the accusations against itself, and China responded to the coordinated sanctions of the collective West with mirror restrictive measures.

The head of the Center for Political Studies of the Republic of Kazakhstan Aidar Amrebayev shared his vision of the situation, as well as the position of Kazakhstan on this issue.

– The territory of Xinjiang is of unconditional strategic interest for the Republic of Kazakhstan, since historically part of the Kazakh population has lived and lives in this territory at different periods of time. For example, in the processes of forced sedentarization (settling), the events of 1916, Bolshevik collectivization, which ended with the famine in Kazakhstan in the 20-30s, some Kazakhs were forced to migrate there in search of a better life.

In addition, there are Kazakhs who originally lived in the west of China, on the territory of Ili-Kazakh Autonomous Okrug, Mora-Kazakh and Barkel-Kazakh Autonomous counties of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR, PRC), as well as in Haisi-Mongol-Tibetan Autonomous County in Gansu Province. Their number, according to official data, is about one and a half million people, and they occupy the 16th place among the nationalities of multinational China. And, of course, their fate cannot but worry Kazakhstan and its citizens. Many here are connected by family ties. Therefore, the fate of the Kazakh population of China arouses interest and emotional empathy among our population.

The second point, of course, is related to the bilateral official relations of the two countries. China is one of the key economic partners for Kazakhstan.

We are bound by fairly close relations of strategic long-term partnership, joint investment and industrial programs, common transport and logistics corridors built with the help of the Chinese side, security cooperation programs within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which we are members.

We are also united by common transboundary water resources and cross-border trade cooperation. Today, quite a large number of young Kazakhstanis receive education in China, a lot of Chinese study in our country. That is, the two republics are connected by a lot of diverse threads.


In the context of multifaceted and multi-level cooperation, security issues are particularly sensitive for both countries. In particular, we are talking about the stereotype of the “Chinese threat” in Kazakhstan, and throughout Central Asia, and the so-called Sinophobia – the excessive settlement of Chinese on our lands, territorial claims, economic dependence of Kazakhstan, etc.

Some of these fears have certain grounds, some are ideological fakes from the “Soviet times” of the cooling of relations between the USSR and the PRC. Therefore, they should be treated critically, objectively assessing the risks and opportunities of interaction with this great power.

This can explain why the Kazakh leadership is not so emotionally close to the problem associated with China’s new vision of its own identity, and its strategy of “integration of national minorities”, an attempt to revive a strong and integral state, which are being implemented today by the Chinese leadership under the auspices of the ideology of the “Chinese dream”.

My individual point of view is yes, the situation is quite ambiguous. In order to objectively judge this, it is necessary to see and investigate this problem with your own eyes. Unfortunately, I do not have such data. And I can only judge by indirect materials and estimates. Let me just make a judgment that the social standards adopted in China and developed Western countries are different.

This applies to many issues related to this problem: from the attitude of the state to its citizens, as well as human rights issues, quality of life standards, etc.

For example, the Western press writes that human rights are not respected in China. Indeed, human rights standards in China and in the West differ. It is believed that the PRC does not comply with the norms of international law. Yes, it is. China has not joined a number of international conventions.

But in the same way, Russia, Kazakhstan, and the United States do not recognize individual conventions. But is this a reason for reckless accusations of this or that state? The priority here is the national interests of the country.


China is a multinational republic. There are many nationalities, national minorities, there is a Han majority. National minorities live in different parts of the country. This applies not only to Xinjiang, but also to Hong Kong, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and other regions where national minorities exist, and they exist almost throughout the territory of the PRC.

China is a kind of analogue of the multinational Soviet Union. And in the USSR, as we know, there was also a policy of social homogeneity, even an attempt was made to create a new community, the “Soviet people”, which corresponded to the socialist doctrine of “proletarian internationalism”.

By the way, the PRC proclaims itself a communist-oriented state. The goal is to build a socialist society, but… with Chinese specifics. The leading force is the Communist Party of China with its strategy of social equality and ideas about national harmony. And this, I think, should be taken into account.

Each state develops in accordance with the social doctrine that the majority of the country’s residents recognize. These are the principles of democracy, the power of the majority.


Our attitude to this may be critical, to accept or not to accept communist principles, but this is our business … the PRC lives according to those canons that correspond to their traditions, national history, values and meanings.

If we make an assessment, then we should understand the real balance of forces and interpret events based on the principles of political realism, not idealism. I believe that when developing its “Chinese policy” Kazakhstan should proceed from this political realism and pragmatism in assessing the opportunities and risks of cooperation with China.

We must clearly assess the current position of the PRC in the modern world order and especially its role in regional politics, since this directly concerns us.

China is strengthening, gradually becoming the No. 1 economic power, and this is today’s reality. We are also talking about strengthening the PRC as a politically influential country.

China’s political strengthening is accompanied by its presentation of its “model of the world”, a model of globalization in Chinese. It can be said that the PRC gathers a “China-centric” world around itself, and its “One Belt– One Road” initiative is a kind of tool for implementing this doctrine.

As you know, the world has been developing so far within the framework of the Western model of globalization, which was based on the “Westernization” of all aspects and aspects of social development. But today the Celestial Empire offers an alternative vision of the world, and countries, especially those bordering China, cannot ignore the proposed model, they must carefully adapt to it without losing their national identity, relying on the protection of fundamental national interests.


This strategy is the implementation of a sufficiently flexible and balanced foreign policy, similar to the strategy that is set out in the Chinese proverb “to walk between the raindrops without getting yourself wet.” That is, putting their own national interests at the forefront, without spoiling relations with this huge power, and extracting their own benefits from interaction with it.

Hence such “non-brutal decisions” of the Kazakh leadership on various sensitive issues of bilateral relations with China. Let’s recall at least an unprecedented situation related to Sairagul Sauytbai.


Sairagul Sauytbai is an ethnic Kazakh woman with Chinese citizenship. Her husband and two children moved to Kazakhstan, becoming citizens of the country after that.

Sairagul herself was a civil servant, was a member of the Communist Party of China and worked in the state “political camp” for ethnic Kazakhs. In the spring of 2018, she crossed the border with Kazakhstan to reunite with her family, and in May she was detained. The PRC demanded her deportation.

On August 1, 2018, the court refused to deport her to China, assigning her six months of probation. In October, Kazakhstan refused to grant Sairagul Sauytbai political asylum, and the commission that reviewed the application considered her persecution in China “unproven”. Sauytbai disagreed with the conclusion of the commission and appealed to the court.

On April 8, the Taldykorgan court stopped considering the claim for recognition of the refusal to grant asylum as illegal. On June 3, 2019, Sauytbai, along with her husband and children, flew to Sweden, where they received political asylum.

As a result, Kazakhstan, having special bilateral relations with China, came to a compromise solution – the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan did not issue Sairagul Sauytbai to China, but also did not leave her in the country. This was the “Solomon’s solution”!

Now as for the oppression of the Uighurs…

This ancient ethnic group, in general, has a rather dramatic history, I would say tragic. Historically, there have been a number of state entities on the territory of Xinjiang (or East Turkestan), which today have failed to defend and institutionally preserve their right to national self-determination, a sovereign state.

We have to reckon with the modern political reality. According to the norms of current international law, this territory and the multinational peoples of the region are part of the People’s Republic of China, and this is recognized by the international community.

There can be no talk about any forms of forced acquisition of sovereignty by the Uighurs in the conditions of this place and time. Perhaps there should be some kind of conciliation mechanisms by which the Uighur, as well as the Han, population of Xinjiang should strive to find a mutually acceptable form of harmonious and legal arrangement of these territories.

China has an independent and peculiar national policy. As in the paternalistic socialist state in the People’s Republic of China, as I know, national minorities were given great benefits. Previously, when China followed the “One family, one child” strategy, national minorities, for example, were allowed to give birth to as many children as they wanted.

That is, the PRC conducted a national policy identical to the Soviet model, when there were special requirements for, say, the northern undeveloped territories (in the case of China, the “western territories”), when residents were given some allowances, benefits for admission to universities, quotas, that is, a lot of Soviet socialist privileges.

By the way, in the same Chinese parliament there is a special representation of national minorities, that is, if we take some formal criteria of social equality and national representation, they are observed in the PRC.

When they talk about “political re-education camps”, then, as explained by the chairman of the SUAR Shohrat Zakir (ethnic Uighur), we are talking about educational institutions whose goals are the integration of national minorities, teaching them professions, good knowledge of the Chinese language. By what methods it is conducted, I cannot say, since I have not been to these camps.

Yes, the media claims that by some repressive methods, but at one time an international group of journalists, diplomats and experts visited Xinjiang. They said that these camps were built in the “Chinese spirit”, the conditions in which, by our standards, are unacceptable, but, from the point of view of the average Chinese citizen, quite normal social institutions. It all depends on what criteria we take for evaluation.

From history, we can recall the Fazia school, whose pupils were irreconcilable supporters of centralized statehood and extremely strict methods of educating the population in the spirit of devotion to imperial China.


Fazia [school of lawyers (legists)] – a philosophical school in ancient China. Its main provisions were formulated by Shang Yang (390-338 BC), the author of the legist canon “The Book of the Ruler of the Shang region”. Han Fei (288-233 BC) made a significant contribution to the teachings of the Legists.

Fazia played a major role in the formation of the imperial system of power and the development of legal science in China. The school reflected the interests of the property nobility associated with private ownership of land, and the broad layers of bureaucracy that advocated the creation of a centralized despotic state. The legists also developed the doctrine of rewards and punishments as the most effective methods of educating the people, while punishments were given the main role.

If we take international human rights norms as criteria, and Western norms are usually meant by them, then, of course, this is unacceptable.

However, if we are talking about the human rights norms adopted in China, then this corresponds to their mentality, lifestyle and social attitudes. This question is quite subtle and complex, having its own nuances.

Therefore, the Chinese Foreign Ministry in such cases invariably declares: “Do not interfere in our internal affairs.” That’s all.

– I will say more, China offers critics to visit the Xinjiang People’s Republic of China to make sure that everything is not as presented in the media.

– I have traveled a lot in China myself, visited Xinjiang, Kashgar, Hong Kong, and Tibet. However, then we were not talking about such camps. At that time there was no corresponding ideological campaign “on unification and social homogeneity, criteria of social loyalty of citizens to the state were not introduced”…

In Kashgar, we observed the resettlement of residents from dilapidated housing in mahallas to new buildings, the employment of young people to work, visited firms founded by representatives of the Uighur national minority, and they developed quite successfully.

For example, I did not see any forms of genocide. Perhaps the current harsh social policy on the ground, a relapse of the overly fanatical zeal of regional party members… In the history of the People’s Republic of China, everything has happened…

– It seemed to me that from where it is unbearably bad, they try to leave…

– I will tell you that today in the world “run” from different places. For example, both from Syria and from quite prosperous countries. Well, a lot of people are moving from Kyrgyzstan, and now what, accuse the state of the genocide of its people? No! There is labor migration to different countries, but this is rather a consequence of ineffective policies in your state, evidence of social discomfort in the republic.

There are many reasons for migration: these are economic, socio-psychological, socio-cultural prerequisites… The problem of migration exists today in Kazakhstan, where there is a so-called “brain drain”. And they are fleeing from Russia to the West, but this is only a subject for careful work by states on themselves.

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