Girl denied Chinese birth certificate reunited with parents in Kazakhstan

Case highlights the plight of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of Kazakhs separated from loved ones, advocates say
By Hwang Chun-mei and Gu Ting for RFA Mandarin
Girl denied Chinese birth certificate reunited with parents in Kazakhstan Abil Dililhan and his wife, Nazgul, hold a photo of their daughter, Reyan.
Credit: Provided by the parties

A 6-year-old ethnic Kazakh girl who was born in China's northwestern Xinjiang region but denied a birth certificate by local authorities there has been reunited with her parents in neighboring Kazakhstan after her case was reported by Radio Free Asia.

Reyan Abil’s case highlights the plight of possibly hundreds of thousands of Kazakh families who have been separated by the actions of the Chinese government, advocates say.

She was born to Xinjiang-born Nazgul, the second wife of her father Abil Dililhan but then denied a birth certificate because local authorities refused to recognize Abil's divorce, granted by a court in Kazakhstan's Xiyelek county in 2016.

Both of Reyan’s parents are now citizens of Kazakhstan, yet the lack of official papers meant she was unable to enroll in a local school, or travel back to Kazakhstan, where her family is based.

"Our child was born in China, but the Chinese government refused to issue a birth certificate," Abil told Radio Free Asia earlier this year. "We asked them to do a DNA test, and we had one done ourselves, but they still refused."

After the report was aired by RFA Mandarin, officials appeared to have a change of heart, and eventually issued Reyan with a birth certificate, enabling her to join her parents in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

‘Hundreds of thousands’ of families separated

Her family’s story highlights the Chinese Communist Party's policies targeting ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, where Beijing continues to incarcerate Kazakhs and Uyghurs in large numbers, despite claiming that the regionwide network of "re-education" camps is closing.

Serikzhan Bilash, founder of the Kazakhstan-based rights group Atajurt told Radio Free Asia that "hundreds of thousands of Kazakhs have had their families separated between Xinjiang and Kazakhstan, and they're not allowed to communicate with each other by phone."

"They pretend that the re-education centers or vocational training centers have been closed, but they are still putting Uyghurs or Kazakhs they don't like in psychiatric hospitals or in industrial parks claiming to provide 'employment opportunities for ethnic minorities'," he said.

Under intense questioning by UN experts over two days in February, a delegation of 40 Chinese officials denied any human rights violations against Uyghur and Tibetan minorities, or efforts to eradicate their religious lives.

Official figures show that there are around 1.5 million Kazakhs in China, mostly concentrated in and around the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture.

China once welcomed Kazakhs who wished to relocate from Kazakhstan, but the ongoing mass targeting of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang has prompted many Kazakhs with Chinese nationality to head back in the other direction.

Chinese restrictions on the free movement of ethnic Kazakhs with Chinese nationality to neighboring Kazakhstan have sparked cross-border tensions in recent years.

Restricted phone calls

Meanwhile, any ethnic minority resident of Xinjiang with family outside China's borders has to submit an application to their local police station in advance if they wish to call friends and relatives overseas, Serikzhan said.

"Some local authorities only allow people to talk to relatives and family members abroad on the phone within a specific period of time," he said. "In some places, people even have to apply to the local police or the state security police in advance, specifying a particular month and a particular day."

"Phone calls can only be made after the authorities give permission," he said.

Many Kazakhs in Xinjiang are limited to one or two phone calls a month to relatives overseas.

"After the call, they have to provide [the state security police] with a written report detailing how many minutes the call lasted," Serikzhan said.

Fear of being harassed

For Reyan's family, their worries aren't over yet.

"His concern now is that the Chinese police will harass his wife's brother-in-law [who brought Reyan to Kazakhstan] after he goes back to China," Abil's friend Nurbek said.

And Reyan's birth certificate still doesn't show her biological parents, but an unrelated "uncle and aunt" from Xinjiang, who are now her legal parents, according to Serikzhan.

"The child now has identity papers following the report by Radio Free Asia ... yet the Chinese authorities deliberately gave this girl a fake identity," he said, adding that there is still a long process ahead before Reyan can obtain Kazakhstan citizenship.

"The Xinjiang authorities are deliberately making things difficult, and creating all kinds of problems, so as to prevent these Kazakhs from emigrating to Kazakhstan," Serikzhan said. "They could still try to pin some crime on [the brother-in-law] ... like child trafficking."

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.


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