Uighurs, who are ethnically Turkic Muslims, share a history in which victims outnumber heroes, and stories of persecution overshadow tales of greatness.
For centuries, Uighurs fought the Chinese over the land they call Eastern Turkistan. But on the map it is called Xinjiang, and it lies in the north of China.
Over the past 200 years, millions of Uighurs fled wars and persecution and settled in Central Asia, but they never gave up the dream of their own land.
And that is a problem for Beijing. As some Uighurs continue to call for greater autonomy from China, Beijing says that their separatism is breeding terrorism.
Terrified to be discovered by the Kazakh authorities, Khader, an asylum seeker from China, agreed to meet us in a secret location.
In a dimly-lit room, Khader and his friends showed us piles of paperwork - thick files of dozens of asylum seekers, with black and white photographs of men and women attached.
Some of them, they said, had been already deported to China, where many had been executed.
Khader's dark, restless eyes were full of deep and disturbing fear, but his voice was measured and calm as he spoke about his experiences in China.
"They never leave us alone. You go out in the street, you go to a market, and police just beat you. I grew up hearing the stories of my neighbours and family members being tortured in the Chinese prisons," he said.
"They call us all terrorists, but what makes us terrorists? Just the fact that we are Uighurs?"
Ten years ago, Khader attended a demonstration in his home town just across the border from Kazakhstan. The rally, which called for more rights for China's Uighur minority, was quickly broken up by the government.
Chinese soldiers, he said, killed his brother and chased him as he ran across the border.
Ever since then, Khader has been hiding in Kazakhstan. For a decade, he has survived with the help of the local Uighur community. But he has no passport, no identity documents and he has been unable to find a job or attain a refugee status.
The only dubious assurance of security he has is a $100 bill that he always carries in his pocket.
"This is what I give to the local police when they stop me. One day, when I can't bribe my way out, the worst can happen."
The worst, he says, is deportation.
"I am not a terrorist, I am just a baker, but if I am sent back I will be killed - I will be hanged or shot," Khader said.
Jul 13, 2007
Uighurs squeezed out by China's growing influence
China have been persecuting the Uighur people for many decades, and pressure is growing as China's influence grows, from BBC: