Kassenova: Kazakh officials downplay the plight of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang while increasing visas for ethnic Kazakhs from China

PONARS Eurasia
16 Mar 2020

(VOA) Sairagul Sauytbay, who said she faced torture in the Chinese detention camps in the Xinjiang region, never thought her story of survival would gain international attention one day.

The 43-year-old Kazakh woman said she was stunned last Wednesday when U.S. first lady Melania Trump handed Sauytbay the U.S. State Department's International Women of Courage Award for providing firsthand details of the human rights situation in the camps. [...]

Nargis Kassenova, a senior fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, told VOA that the Xinjiang issue has put Kazakhstan's government in a difficult position because of the country’s close economic ties to China.

“It tries not to make strong moves that would upset too much the domestic public opinion and China, keeping both moderately upset," Kassenova told VOA. 

She said Kazakh officials are trying to maintain the “delicate balance” by “downplaying the plight of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang, at the same time increasing the number of visas issued to ethnic Kazakhs from China.”

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