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Kazakhs From China Appeal To German Chancellor For Help With Captured Relatives

Kazakhs Seek German Help To Free Relatives In China
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WATCH: Kazakhs Seek German Help To Free Relatives In China (natural sound)

ALMATY-- Dozens of ethnic Kazakhs originally from China appealed to Germany's chancellor for help in seeking the release of relatives from so-called "reeducation camps" in northwestern China.

The Kazakh repatriates traveled to the German Consulate in Almaty on October 4 to hand over their petition addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The United Nations human rights officials said in August that an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs were being held in "counterextremism centers" in China and millions more have been forced into reeducation camps.

The UN agency said northwestern Xinjiang Province had been turned into "something that resembles a massive internment camp."

Тhe ethnic Kazakhs told a news conference in Almaty that their relatives had been detained and sent to reeducation camps while traveling back and forth to a region within Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan.

They held pictures of family members they say are being detained, claiming that some had been held in reeducation camps for more than two years. In the past, they have called on Kazakh authorities, other governments, and rights groups for help.

In August, a court in Almaty refused to extradite an ethnic-Kazakh Chinese citizen, who was wanted in China for illegal border crossing.

The woman, Sairagul Sauytbay, fled China in April and testified at her trial in Almaty that thousands of ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang were undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of "reeducation camps."

She testified that Chinese authorities had forced her to train "political ideology" instructors for reeducation camps.

That, she said, gave her access to secret documents about what she called a Chinese state program to "reeducate" Muslims from Xinjiang's indigenous ethnic communities -- mainly Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Hui.

Uyghurs are the largest indigenous community in Xinjiang, followed by Kazakhs. Han, China's largest ethnicity, are the second largest community in Xinjiang.

China has broadly denied such allegations, claiming the country has prevented a "great tragedy" in the Xinjiang.

Beijing has said the province faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the Uyghurs and Chinese.

Merkel in the past has pressed China and President Xi Jinping on issues related to human rights in the country.