Berlin [Germany], September 9 (ANI): Kazakh authorities have banned a Russian-American researcher from the country for five years in apparent efforts to stymie his work documenting abuses of ethnic minorities in neighboring China, according to a rights group.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) informed that the researcher, Yevgeniy (Gene) Bunin, had been doing research about abuses in Xinjiang, a northwestern region of China that borders Kazakhstan. Bunin learned of the ban when he arrived at the Almaty International Airport on September 4, 2021.
"Banning Bunin is a new low in Kazakhstan's response to China's ongoing crackdown in Xinjiang," said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The Kazakh government should reverse the ban and allow Bunin to carry out his important research, including with ethnic Kazakhs in Kazakhstan who have fled Xinjiang or have relatives who have been detained or disappeared there."
Bunin, 36, is the founder of the Xinjiang Victims Database, a website documenting the cases of over 24,000 people detained, disappeared, or otherwise abused in Xinjiang since September 2018.
The rights group said that passport control agents at the Almaty airport served Bunin with a written deportation order, a photograph of which he posted on his Facebook page, but it did not include the grounds for the decision. Neither Kazakhstan's National Security Committee, nor its Border Service, nor Foreign Affairs Ministry has provided an explanation when Bunin or reporters subsequently contacted them, HRW said.
In a Facebook post Bunin uploaded the evening he found out about the ban, he noted, "I flew to Almaty tonight and was turned away at passport control.... A passport control worker soon came over and clarified that I was banned from entering Kazakhstan for five years."
According to the rights group, the Chinese government's abusive crackdown on Xinjiang involves the mass arbitrary detention of ethnic minority citizens - primarily Uyghurs, but also Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Huis too.
As a result of Kazakhstan's long-standing policy of encouraging ethnic Kazakhs from abroad to settle in Kazakhstan, many ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang have family in Kazakhstan. According to official figures reported in the media, more than one million ethnic Kazakhs have repatriated to Kazakhstan since the country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, mostly from neighboring countries like China and Uzbekistan, HRW said.
Kazakhstan shares a long border and has deep economic ties with China. The Kazakh government has previously shown a readiness to sacrifice respect for human rights in an effort to maintain good relations with the Chinese government, HRW added. (ANI)