Majlis Podcast: On Trial In Kazakhstan For Defending Kazakhs In China

Serkizhan Bilash attends a hearing on the review on extension of his arrest in Nur-Sultan in June. Photo: RFE/RL

By Bruce Pannier
Muhammad Tahir
August 11, 2019 12:28 GMT

There is a break in the trial of Serikzhan Bilash as the venue for the hearing moves from Kazakhstan's capital, Nur-Sultan, to Almaty.

Bilash is a naturalized Kazakh citizen. He is an ethnic Kazakh, but he was born in what is now China's western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and for many months he has been gathering other naturalized Kazakhs from Xinjiang to protest the Chinese authorities' incarcerations of Muslims, including Kazakhs, in so-called "reeducation camps" there.

China, besides sharing a nearly 1,800-kilometer-long border with Kazakhstan, is also a leading trade partner and investor in its neighbor.

Bilash was detained in Almaty in March and charged under Article 174 of Kazakhstan's Criminal Code -- inciting social, national, tribal, racial, class, or religious hatred.

Some feel the Kazakh authorities are trying to silence this critic of Chinese policies before Bilash sours Kazakh-Chinese economic ties.

RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderated a discussion about the Bilash case and the situation for ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang.

Both guests for the discussion are based in Kazakhstan: Joanna Lillis, author of the recently published book Dark Shadows: Inside The Secret World Of Kazakhstan, joined in, as did freelance journalist Gene Bunin, who has done extensive reporting on the situation in Xinjiang for many years. I had a few things to say, as usual.