Kazakh authorities detained at least 20 people as demonstrators staged anti-China protests in towns and cities across the Central Asian nation on March 27.
The protesters rallied against China’s increasing influence and economic power in the former Soviet republic.
Activists also denounced the mass incarceration of members of indigenous Turkic-speaking communities in China’s Xinjiang region, including ethnic Kazakhs and Uyghurs.
Protests were held in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, and in the capital, Nur-Sultan, as well as Oral, Shymkent, and Aqtobe.
In Almaty, several hundred people gathered in a square to denounce what they said was “Chinese expansion” in Kazakhstan. At least seven protesters were detained on their way to the rally.
In Nur-Sultan, several people were detained on their way to a rally. Police cordoned off a square where protesters were expected to gather.
The protests were called by the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) and the unregistered Democratic Party of Kazakhstan (DPK).
In recent months, many activists across Kazakhstan have been handed parole-like sentences for their involvement in the activities of the DVK, as well as for taking part in rallies organized by the group.
The DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government.
Human rights groups have said Kazakhstan’s law on public gatherings violates international standards as it requires preliminary permission from authorities to hold rallies and envisions prosecution for organizing and participating in unsanctioned rallies, even though the nation’s constitution guarantees its citizens the right of free assembly.
Kazakh authorities have insisted that there are no political prisoners in the country.