Kussaiyn Sagymbai

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Bota Kussaiyn.jpg

Families Torn Apart

For months, relatives of the missing kept their anguish to themselves. They hoped the loss of contact with loved ones back home would be temporary. They feared making things worse if they sought outside help, since the Chinese government views contact with relatives living abroad as suspect, and, in some cases, grounds for detention in “re-education camps”. Now, with no clear end in sight for their torment, more and more are willing to speak up.

Bota Kussaiyn, an ethnic Kazakh student studying at Moscow State University, last spoke with her father, Kussaiyn Sagymbai, over WeChat in November 2017. Originally from the XUAR, their family had re-settled in Kazakhstan in 2013.

Bota’s father had returned to China in late 2017 to visit a doctor, but the authorities confiscated his passport after he arrived in the XUAR. Bota subsequently learnt from relatives there that her father had been sent to a “re-education camp”.

Her relatives in the XUAR were so afraid that further contact might put them under suspicion that they stopped communicating with her after that.

Bota told Amnesty: “My father is an ordinary citizen. We were a happy family before he was detained. We laughed together. We can’t laugh any more, and we can’t sleep at night. We live in fear every day. It has done great harm to my mother. We don’t know where he is. We don’t even know if he’s still alive. I want to see my father again.”