Wikileaks: Kazakhstan: Chinese land-lease deal stirs up controversy

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Viewing cable 10ASTANA257, KAZAKHSTAN: CHINESE LAND-LEASE DEAL STIRS UP CONTROVERSY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10ASTANA257 2010-02-22 09:38 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana
	VZCZCXRO9581
OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHTA #0257/01 0530938
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 220938Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7529
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 2525
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1871
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2577
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 2068
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1916
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/AMCONSUL ALMATY 2338
	UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000257 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, EAP/CM, EEB 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON EAGR SOCI CH KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  CHINESE LAND-LEASE DEAL STIRS UP CONTROVERSY 
 
ASTANA 00000257  001.3 OF 002 
 
 
 
REFTELS:  A.  09 ASTANA 2168 
  B.  ASTANA 0072 
  C.  ASTANA 0119 
  D.  ASTANA 0184 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  Despite a December 23, 2009, Interfax press 
report that President Nazarbayev instructed the prosecutors to 
punish those who disseminate information about the sale of land to 
foreigners, opposition leaders have continued to advocate against 
the transfer of land to China.  At a press conference in Almaty on 
January 13, Azat Party leaders Zharmakhan Tuyakbay and Bulat Abilov 
spoke out against any form of land transfer to foreign countries. 
Subsequently, on January 30, the Azat National Social Democratic 
Party (NSDP) and several other opposition parties held a 
government-sanctioned rally, attended by approximately 2,000 
protesters in Almaty, to protest against rumors that the Kazakhstani 
government is considering a request to rent land to China.  The 
January 30 protest followed a similar demonstration on December 11, 
2009, in front of the Chinese Consulate General in Almaty on the eve 
of Hu Jintao's visit to Astana to inaugurate the Kazakhstan-China 
pipeline (ref A).  The government has not initiated any actions 
against opposition leaders in relation to protests against land 
deals with China, but Kazakhstani media report that the authorities 
detained 13 Arman Public Association activists, as a result of their 
actions following the January 30 demonstration.  The China 
land-lease deal, rumored to possibly having been under consideration 
by the Kazakhstani Government, along with allegations that the 
President's son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev, received kickbacks over 
energy deals with China, remain extremely sensitive issues in 
Kazakhstan (refs B-D).  The rumors of corruption are especially 
troubling to Kazakhstanis, who are acutely sensitive to 
densely-populated China's geographical proximity and growing 
economic influence.  END SUMMARY. 
 
CHINESE LAND DEAL SPARKS A PROTEST... 
 
3.  (SBU) President Nursultan Nazarbayev's announcement at a meeting 
of the Foreign Investors' Council on December 4, 2009, that China 
had requested one million hectares of land for the cultivation of 
agricultural crops triggered large demonstrations in Almaty on 
December 11, 2009, and January 30.  During the first rally, 
organized by a group of Kazakhstani intellectuals, the protesters 
tried to present a petition expressing their concerns.  Because no 
officials from the Chinese Consulate talked to the protesters or 
accepted their petition, the group announced their plan to mail the 
original to the Consulate, with a copy to the Presidential 
Administration.  During Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to 
Astana on December 12, 2009, according to Kazakhstan's Minister of 
Agriculture Akylbek Kurishbayev, bilateral talks did not address the 
question of China's leasing of land (ref A). 
 
...AND A QUICK RESPONSE FROM THE GOVERNMENT 
 
4.  (SBU) In apparent response to the public outcry against the 
China land-lease deal, local press reported on December 23, 2009, 
that President Nazarbayev instructed Kazakhstani prosecutors to 
punish dissemination of information about the sale of land to 
foreigners.  On December 30, 2009, the Prosecutor General's Office 
also issued a statement -- apparently to refute charges that the 
government had ever considered a land-lease deal -- that according 
to Kazakhstani law, land and other natural resources are 
state-owned, and cannot legally be transferred to foreign 
ownership. 
 
PROTESTS AGAINST ALLEGED CHINESE LAND-LEASE DEAL CONTINUE 
 
5.  (SBU) Reflecting widespread wariness and concern among the 
public about the growing influence of China on Kazakhstan, 
opposition leaders have continued to protest against the purported 
government plan to lease land to China.  At a January 13 press 
conference in Almaty, the leaders of the opposition Azat National 
 
ASTANA 00000257  002.3 OF 002 
 
 
Social Democratic Party (NSDP), Zharmakhan Tuyakbay and Bulat 
Abilov, stated their party's opposition to any form of land transfer 
to foreign countries.  Tuyakbay said government officials discussed 
the establishment of a joint venture with a Chinese company to lease 
land-plots to China.  "The situation is unclear and the sense of 
alarm in the public remains," Tuyakbay added.  Government 
representatives have strenuously denied that any plan to lease land 
to China had been seriously considered, let alone approved. 
 
6.  (SBU) On January 30, several opposition parties co-organized a 
government-sanctioned rally, attended by approximately 2,000 
protesters in Almaty, protesting Kazakhstan renting land to China. 
The Azat Party led the protest, with support from the unregistered 
Alga and Communist Parties, and the Socialist Resistance and Talmas 
movements.  Participants held banners saying "Stop lawlessness," 
"Government should be brought to account," and "The future of the 
land is the future of the nation."  For two hours, opposition 
leaders, including Zharmakhan Tuyakbay and Bulat Abilov of Azat, 
Vladimir Kozlov of Alga, Amantay Akhetov of the Communist Party, 
Aynur Kurmanov of the Socialist Resistance and poet Mukhtar 
Shakhanov spoke against renting Kazakhstani land to China.  Some 
spoke against private land ownership and leasing any land to foreign 
entities.   The speakers lambasted the government for its practices, 
but no one criticized President Nazarbayev.  The police watched the 
peaceful rally, only intervening on one occasion -- to force a 
person holding a poster depicting a Chinese dragon on Kazakhstan's 
flag to fold it up. 
 
POLICE DETAIN 13 ACTIVISTS AFTER SANCTIONED RALLY 
 
7.  (SBU) After Azat organizers announced the end of the rally and 
asked participants to disperse, several members of the Arman Public 
Association refused to leave.  The group's leader, Yermek 
Narymbayev, and several of his supporters, loudly and harshly 
criticized President Nazarbayev's policies for approximately 30 
minutes.  Narymbayev accused Nazarbayev of selling most of 
Kazakhstan's oil fields to China, and of planning to sell 
Kazakhstani land to China.  Several dozen Arman supporters 
encircling the speakers chanted "Down with Nazarbayev."  The 
Embassy's Political Assistant personally observed the police 
cordoning off the Arman activists, forcing them out of the theater 
into a park nearby, and forcing Narymbayev into a police vehicle. 
After this incident, approximately 100 law enforcement officers 
blocked the street sidewalks.  According to Azzatyq Radio Liberty, 
the police arrested 13 Arman activists.  Narymbayev was reportedly 
tried and sentenced to 10 days of detention for organizing an 
unsanctioned protest. 
 
8.  (SBU) Vladimir Kozlov of Alga asserted that the National 
Security Committee (KNB) organized the incident as a provocation, in 
order to accuse the opposition of being unable to control a peaceful 
protest, and support the denial of future opposition rally requests. 
 (COMMENT:  Since authorities have not hesitated to deny the 
opposition permission for rallies, Kozlov's assertion does not 
appear credible.  Law enforcement's detention of 13 Arman movement 
protesters is also unsurprising, since Narymbayev and his supporters 
crossed the unwritten line against publicly attacking President 
Nazarbayev -- a long-standing taboo.  END COMMENT.) 
 
9.  (SBU) COMMENT:  The government has not initiated any actions 
against established opposition leaders in relation to the officially 
sanctioned January 30 protest against leasing land to China.  The 
detention of Arman activists following their denunciations of 
Nazarbayev after the rally, however, indicate how sensitive 
authorities are about this issue.  The China land-lease deal, and 
allegations that the President's son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev, 
received kickbacks over energy deals with China, remain hot-button 
issues.  Rumors of corruption in relation to economic deals with 
China are especially incendiary in Kazakhstan, where many residents 
are acutely attuned to their vast, resource-rich country's 
geographic position, bordering one of the world's most populous and 
resource-hungry nations.  END COMMENT. 
 
HOAGLAND
Original source: Wikileaks
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