US diplomat praises Kazakh protection of Uighur rights


WASHINGTON, DC -- The United States Thursday (June 6) praised Kazakhstan for not turning back Uighurs fleeing neighbouring China, which has rounded up an estimated one million people from the mostly Muslim ethnic group.

David Ranz, a US diplomat in charge of Central Asia, pointed to Kazakhstan as an example as he addressed a symposium in Washington on the mounting human rights concerns in Xinjiang, China.

The United States is "grateful" to Kazakhstan "for resisting Chinese pressure to forcibly return Uighurs and other members of Muslim minority groups back to China", said Ranz, an acting deputy assistant secretary of state.

"We urge all countries to provide this protection, to allow them access to asylum, and allow these individuals to travel to third countries of their choosing, as Kazakhstan has done," he told the event organised by Uighur rights groups and George Washington University.

Roughly 1.5 million ethnic Kazakhs live in Xinjiang -- often descendants of Kazakhs who fled Soviet rule and earlier the tsarist military draft -- and some have also spoken of being detained.

More than one million Uighurs have been detained, according to estimates cited by the United Nations. The United States has likened the incaraceration to Nazi Germany's concentration camps.

Ordinary citizens are being pushed to renounce Islam, say Uighur activists, but China says it is providing vocational training to prevent radicalism.

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