A high-profile activist campaigning for the release of ethnic Kazakhs affected by China’s crackdown on Muslims was arrested early Sunday, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
Serikzhan Bilash, the director of advocacy group Atajurt, was arrested in Almaty in the small hours of Sunday morning.
He was flown to Astana, the capital, likely to face criminal charges of extremism and inciting ethnic hatred, his partner, Leila Adilzhan, and his lawyer Aiman Umarova, told the Telegraph.
Ms Adilzhan said Mr Bilash called her Sunday morning from a policeman’s mobile and confirmed he was being held in Astana. Mr Bilash was born in China, moved to Kazakhstan about 15 years ago, and now holds Kazakh citizenship.
Sill, Ms Adilzhan worries “our government will send him to China.” Mr Bilash and his group, Atajurt, have highlighted the plight of ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims detained in China’s internment camps in Xinjiang, a far western province that shares a border with Kazakhstan.
The group provided financial support, petitioned authorities and taped testimonies from former detainees and those looking for missing family members. Mr Bilash’s arrest is “connected with his actions against Chinese camps, because he speaks publicly, openly about Kazakh people who are in the camps,” said Ms Umarova.
In a video posted online Sunday, Mr Bilash said he was accused of inciting ethnic hatred and was being held by police in Astana, and that he was not taken “by either the Chinese or Chinese spies.”