Sarsenbek Akbar upon being reunited with his family after years of incarceration in China.
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- An ethnic Kazakh man from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, Sarsenbek Aqbar, has reunited with his family in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, after serving almost three years in a Chinese labor camp and two years under house arrest.
Aqbar's wife, Gulnur Qosdaulet, told RFE/RL on February 9 that her husband arrived in Almaty late in the evening the previous day. She refused to elaborate further, fearing repercussions.
Aqbar's relatives said earlier that he spent almost three years in a Chinese labor camp for "political prisoners" between 2017 and 2020 and was placed under house arrest for two years after his release.
Kazakh officials have not commented on Aqbar's arrival in Almaty.
China’s crackdown in Xinjiang has seen Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities put into mass detention camps. Since Beijing’s dragnet accelerated in 2017, the plight of ethnic Kazakhs interned in China has been an unexpected source of dissent, with the testimonies of former detainees and family members fueling a guerrilla advocacy campaign that brought outsized international attention to the issue.
This left the Kazakh government walking a tightrope between appeasing Beijing -- which denies the long list of abuses that have been documented in its camp system -- and dealing with an exasperated segment of its population lobbying for family members in China.
Qosdaulet herself, along with dozens of people, attended rallies near the Chinese Consulate in Almaty for years before her husband was allowed to return to Kazakhstan.
The U.S. State Department has said that as many as 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang's other indigenous, mostly Muslim ethnic groups have been taken to detention centers.
China denies that the facilities are internment camps, but people who have fled the province say members of these groups are undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of facilities officially referred to as reeducation camps.
Kazakhs are the second-largest Turkic-speaking indigenous community in Xinjiang after Uyghurs. The region is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans. Han, China's largest ethnicity, is the second-largest community in Xinjiang.