China is permitting more than 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs to surrender their Chinese citizenship and leave the country, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said this week.

The move may be a sign that China is feeling international pressure about its widespread detention of Muslims in the country’s far western Xinjiang area.

The detention of ethnic Uyghur, Kazakh and other minorities in internment camps has caused tension between China and neighboring Kazakhstan. 

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry has confirmed that China has agreed to let over 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs leave. It did not say who could leave or why they were able to leave. Those people will now be able to request Kazakh citizenship or permanent residency.

In recent years, Chinese officials have carried out a severe policing and detention campaign in the large, resource-rich Xinjiang region. Rights groups and experts have estimated that possibly 1 million people are being held in what China has called “re-education” camps.

Former detainees have said they were forced to reject their culture and religion and subjected to political teachings.

Serikzhan Bilash is head of the advocacy group Atajurt. He said he senses a small change in the Kazakh government’s position. 

“I said that Chinese officials are dangerous for Central Asia, for Kazakhstan,” Bilash said. “They’re starting to accept my opinion now.”

While they have avoided criticizing China, Kazakh diplomats have worked to secure the release of their own citizens in Xinjiang. Foreign Ministry officials said in November that China had detained 29 Kazakh citizens, and 15 had since been released and permitted to enter Kazakhstan.

 “I suspect it’s sort of an appeasement thing going on, where they’re trying to satisfy the relatives, to defuse tensions.”

Those permitted to return so far have been largely Kazakh citizens or those with Kazakh partners or children.

One 23-year-old Kazakh citizen, who asked to be identified only by Guli was able to return from Xinjiang in July. She had been separated from her husband and two children for more than two years. She said she cried after a Kazakh official called to say she might be able to return.

Guli said, “I thought I’d never be able to go back to Kazakhstan again, that I wouldn’t able to see my kids again. I had lost all hope.”

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.


internment (n.) - the act of putting someone in a prison for political reasons or during a war


residency (n.) - the state or fact of living in a place


region (n.) - a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way


advocacy (n.) - the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal​

appeasement (n.) - the act of making someone who is pleased or less angry by giving or saying something desired


defuse (v.) - to make (something) less serious, difficult, or tense



Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.


  1. What is China going to permit?
  2. How many ethnic Kazakhs will be released?
  3. Where were they detained?
  4. How long was Guli seperated from her family?



Exercise 3

Make a sentence.

Make sentences using these words.

defuse, internment, advocacy




Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.


  1. Why were Kazakhs intered?
  2. Were they prisoners?
  3. Are muslims being mistreated in China, in your opinion?



This lesson is based on a news article originally published by learningenglish.voanews.