Authorities in Uzbekistan are holding an ethnic Kazakh man with Chinese nationality after he was denied permission to enter Kazakhstan, and his repatriation to China appears imminent, RFA has learned.
Businessman Halimbek Shahman initially fled China, which has incarcerated at least one million ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs and Kazakhs in “re-education” camps, on Jan. 4, arriving in Thailand, where he took a flight to Almaty in Kazakhstan, sources in Kazakhstan said.
Shahman then boarded a flight to Uzbekistan’s Tashkent airport after being denied entry by the Kazakh authorities, a Kazakhstan-based rights group said.
He is currently stuck in a restricted area of the airport, according to a statement from the human rights group Atajurt.
An employee who spoke to RFA from the group said Chinese foreign ministry officials had demanded Shahman be handed over to them.
Repeated attempts to contact Shahman met with an unreliable connection that seemed to be affected by interference.
“I was born in Emin county in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region [XUAR], to a farming family,” he said in a brief video message sent in lieu of a phone call. “I wanted to go to Kazakhstan, because China’s human rights record was making life intolerable.”
“I would have my ID checked every 50 to 100 meters [164 to 328 feet] when I was in Xinjiang,” he said. “This made me extremely anxious, and I couldn’t stand it anymore.”
A friend of Shahman’s told RFA that he remains in danger of repatriation to China, where he is faced with the threat of a “re-education” camp.
“This guy is in Tashkent airport right now, and the Chinese embassy is getting ready to take him away,” the friend said. “The Tashkent police are planning to detain him.”