Ethnic Kazakh Man Faces Extradition By Chinese Authorities

China has been cracking down on its Uyghur population. (Wikimedia Commons)

China has been cracking down on its Uyghur population. (Wikimedia Commons)

Uzbek authorities detained an ethnic Kazakh citizen of China in the Uzbek capital Takshent after he was denied entrance to Kazakhstan. Chinese authorities have issued an extradition request for businessman Qalymbek Shahman, raising the concerns of human rights activists.

The 41-year-old Kazakh was born in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, an area that has gained the attention of the international community in recent months. The Chinese government has faced an outcry from global human rights activists calling for the end of a chain of re-education camps in the region. The activists claim that the camps, which hold nearly 1 million people, are mass detention centers for Muslims and non-Chinese populations.

The crackdown follows a 2009 Uyghur riot against majority Han Chinese populations in the province’s capital city of Urumqi and sporadic separatist movements that have fomented in the wake of the riot. A number of non-Chinese Muslims have fled the the province to neighboring Central Asian countries to avoid the increasing policing capabilities of the Chinese state.

In a video posted from the Uzbek airport, Shahman stated that he “wanted to go to Kazakhstan because China’s human rights record was making life intolerable.” The video’s plea for help was distributed three days into the refugee’s stay in the transit terminal.

Shahman’s current whereabouts are unknown, and Kazakh and U.S. embassy officials are scrambling to locate him. The embassy reports that they are in contact with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. In a conversation with Associated Press, a spokesman from the embassy said that "we urge third countries to allow UNHCR and other UN organizations and non-governmental organizations access to these asylum seekers to assess their protection claims and provide assistance."