Thursday, August 28, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Uyghurs Fleeing Xinjiang for Kazakhstan

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 28 – As a result of China’s crackdown in Xinjiang, Uyghurs are fleeing to Kazakhstan and even re-identifying as ethnic Kazakhs once they get there, according to an appeal by ethnic Kazakhs in China who complain that Astana has not proved equally welcoming to them.


            In an appeal to Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Masimov and other officials, the ethnic Kazakhs note that President Nursultan Nazarbayev had directed the foreign ministry to “create all conditions for the movement of ethnic Kazakhs from China to the Motherland” but that officials have not carried out his order (


            Ethnic Kazakhs in China face serious problems in obtaining visas not only because they are forced to travel long distances to reach the Kazakhstan consulate in Urumchi but also because consular officials not only do not deliver promised visas in a timely fashion but often are more inclined to give them to members of other national groups.


            “It is well-known,” the appeal says, “that among those asking for Kazakhstan visas are Uyghurs. Why can’t Kazakhs get to their ethnic Motherland?” That question is agitating many in Xinjiang especially since “information has appeared recently that Chinese citizens [of Uyghur nationality] are moving to Kazakhstan, changing their nationality and becoming Kazakhs.”


            On the one hand, this appeal may be little more than the complaints of some ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang about their inability to get visas. But on the other, it highlights the extent of Uyghur flight from Chinese oppression and the apparent willingness of Kazakhstan to give members of that nation visas and even citizenship when they seek it.

            This is only the latest instance of a lonstanding pattern: Uyghurs and Kazakhs over the last century have often moved between what is now the Republic of Kazakhstan and now China's Xinjiang Province, leaving the place where they face more oppression and moving to the one where they will face less.


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