No deportation to China

Kazakhstan decides to protect eyewitness to Chinese reeducation camps – Protests can save lives (Press Release)

An arrested eyewitness of re-education camps for Uighurs and Kazakhs in China was released. This is a great success in Human Rights Work. Picture: thoho1/Xinjang via Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is relieved that Kazakhstan has agreed to protect an eyewitness to the conditions in Chinese reeducation centers for Uyghurs and Kazakhs. “This is a great success of dedicated human rights work. Under pressure from China, there were plans to secretly deport the witness to the People’s Republic, where she might have been sentenced to death. As a guard in one of the penal camps, she has important insider information about how these camps are organized,” stated Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Friday. Around 2,500 Kazakhs and hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uyghurs are illegally detained in reeducation centers like this in northwestern China.

Sayragul Savutbay is of Kasach origin, but a Chinese citizen. Thanks to protests in Kazakhstan and abroad, her deportation was prevented. On August 1, 2018, a court in Zharkent sentenced her to half a year on probation for illegally entering the country. She was released immediately after the trial.

Sayragul Savutbay worked as a guard at a reeducation center in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. In April 2018, she was warned that she might be facing imprisonment, so she fled to Kazakhstan, where she could live with family members. On May 22, Kazakh intelligence officials had arrested her and taken her to the Chinese border to hand her over to the Chinese authorities. However, the protests among the Kazakh people grew so loud that Kazakhstan’s government decided not to extradite her after all.

The STP had urged the EU governments to try to help, urging the Kazakh government to set her free. The Savutbay case had brought Kazakhstan’s government into a dilemma. The people of Kazhakstan are putting more and more pressure on the government not to remain silent about the brutal persecution of Kazakhs in China, while the Chinese government is trying to gain influence in Kazakhstan in the scope of the Silk Road Initiative. China had insistently demanded the former prison guard to be extradited, and many Chinese diplomats had been present at the trial to underscore this demand. 

Headerpicture: thoho1/Xinjang via Flickr