China thanks Kazakhstan for ‘support’ of Xinjiang crackdown

Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Beibut Atamkulov (2L) with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) attend a signing ceremony at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on March 28, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 29 March 2019

China thanks Kazakhstan for ‘support’ of Xinjiang crackdown

  • UN said China is holding one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim groups in internment camps in the heavily policed region
  • Beijing has rejected the accusations and says it runs education training centers

BEIJI: China has thanked Kazakhstan for supporting its crackdown on the restive far west region of Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of rights abuses against minority groups, including ethnic Kazakhs.
China is holding one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim groups in internment camps in the heavily policed region, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.
Beijing has rejected the accusations and says it runs education training centers as part of its fight against Islamist extremism and separatism in Xinjiang.
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Kazakhstan counterpart Beibut Atamkulov in Beijing.
According to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry, Atamkulov said his country “understands and supports the measures taken by China’s Xinjiang region” to rein in terrorism, separatism and extremism.
“We appreciate the Kazakhstan government’s understanding and support for China’s position,” said Wang, according to the statement.
“We will never allow anyone, any force, to undermine China-Kazakhstan friendship and mutual trust,” he added.
The Kazakhstan foreign ministry did not mention Xinjiang in its own statement on Atamkulov’s visit to China.
But it said the two top diplomats discussed the “issue of the situation with ethnic Kazakhs living in” China.
The two sides “stressed a mutual interest in resolving emerging issues through working contacts” between the foreign ministries and an agreement was reached “on the revitalization of consular services,” the statement added.
Oil-rich Kazakhstan, which shares a border with the Xinjiang region, has been treading a diplomatic tightrope since major trading partner China began to forcibly send ethnic Kazakhs to internment camps under its anti-extremism policy.
One former detainee, a Kazakh national who was born in Xinjiang, told AFP that the camps only had one objective — to strip detainees of their religious belief.
Omir Bekali, who was arrested in 2017 after he returned to Xinjiang on a business trip for his Kazakh travel agency, said camp inmates were forbidden to pray or grow a beard, and forced to eat pork on Fridays, which is a holy day for Muslims.
Earlier this month, Xinjiang rights activist Serikjan Bilash, who has led an awareness drive centered on ethnic Kazakh victims of China’s crackdown in the region, was arrested in Kazakhstan.
He was charged with inciting inter-ethnic hatred, but later released from detention and handed two months of house arrest.
In October, an escaped Chinese national whose court testimony described a secretive network of re-education camps was denied political asylum in Kazakhstan, where her family lives.


Vietnam jails music teacher for ‘undermining’ state

Updated 19 min 42 sec ago

Vietnam jails music teacher for ‘undermining’ state

  • Vietnam has recently been criticized for targeting users on Facebook
  • Latest jailed activist wrote about police brutality and land rights
HANOI: Vietnam sentenced a music teacher to 11 years in prison on Friday for Facebook posts that allegedly undermined the one-party state, which has been accused of tightening the noose on online dissent.
Communist Vietnam has long jailed its critics but has come under fire recently for targeting users on Facebook, a popular forum for activists in the country where all independent media is banned.
Nguyen Nang Tinh is the latest activist jailed for his Facebook comments, including posts about a Taiwanese steel firm that dumped toxic sludge into the ocean, killing masses of fish in central Vietnam.
He also wrote about police brutality and land rights — both flashpoint issues in Vietnam.
Authorities accused the college music teacher of posting “hostile thoughts” and “profound anti-government material” on social media.
The 42-year-old was sentenced to 11 years for “producing, disseminating or spreading information and documents aimed at undermining” Vietnam, his lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng told AFP from central Nghe An province.
He got another five years probation.
The jail term was “too harsh,” Mieng told AFP, arguing that prosecutors did not have sufficient evidence to link the offending Facebook account to his client.
Tinh’s father Nguyen Ngoc Dinh insisted his son was innocent, saying he “only raised his voice against injustice in society.”
“My son was very strong in court. He didn’t admit the charges,” he added, calling the trial “ridiculous.”
Tinh was bundled into a car by police in May after taking his two young sons for breakfast.
His conviction comes just days after a dissident with Australian citizenship was jailed for 12 years in Vietnam on terrorism charges, along with two other Vietnamese nationals who got 10 and 11 years.
Vietnam has come under fire for cracking down on activists since a conservative leadership came to power in 2016.
Last year, the government passed a controversial cybersecurity law that critics say is designed to scrub online dissent.
The bill — which is not yet implemented — requires sites like Facebook and YouTube to remove content if asked by the government to do so. The law would also require companies to hand over user data and host servers in the country.
Amnesty International says there are at least 128 political prisoners behind bars in Vietnam, 10 percent it estimates were jailed for Facebook posts.
Other rights group put the number of jailed dissidents as far higher, but no official data is available.