Kazakh court extends China rights activist's sentence

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The hotel from which
Serikzhan Bilash was taken
on March 10, 2019.
(Photo: ChinaAid)

(Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan—May 23, 2019) A court in Kazakhstan’s capital announced that it would hold the founder of a human rights organization that aided victims of a Chinese genocide until June 10 and rejected an appeal put forth by his lawyer that he be placed under custody in his home.

The prisoner, Serikzhan Bilash, was only supposed to remain locked away until May 10, but the court held a hearing on May 5 that ultimately resolved in the decision to extend his sentence to June 10. Aiman Umarova, Bilash’s lawyer, had made a request that Bilash be allowed to return to Almaty, where his organization, Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights (hereafter referred to as Atajurt), is located, but the court refused and denied him bail.

Bilash was first taken from a hotel in Almaty to Nur-Sultan on March 10, after individuals loyal to the Chinese Communist Party alleged he had soured the relationship between Kazakhstan and China. He was also pinned with charges of running Atajurt as an “illegal” group and “inciting ethnic hatred.”

Atajurt was founded as a platform for Kazakh individuals whose families have suffered at the hands of China’s Communist Party to share their stories and plead for the release of their loved ones. Currently, China is enacting a large-scale crackdown against minority people groups living in its northwestern Xinjiang region, including Kazakhs, and has imprisoned millions in state-run concentration camps. The inmates in these camps are then starved, brainwashed, tortured, driven to mental collapse, and sometimes forced to work without pay. Many have died. Some reports describe women being made to take an unknown pill that stops their menstruation, indicating the government may be attempting to interfere with the birth rates of these people groups. Additionally, children whose parents are in the camps are taken to orphanages, where they are made to speak Mandarin instead of their native languages and are raised as if they are Han, China’s ethnic majority.

Outside of the camp, the lives of these minorities are strictly monitored, and they are often mandated to house Chinese government informants and have their ways of life restricted.

This systematic elimination of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang meets all of the criteria for genocide set forth by the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), which are as follows:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

ChinaAid requests that the Kazakh government free Bilash and allow Atajurt to continue its work fighting on behalf of Kazakh people living in China.

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