Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Supporters seeking new lawyer for Celil


Supporters of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen detained in China, say that his court-appointed lawyer is inadequate and that Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs has recommended they obtain independent legal advice there.

Mr. Celil, who was born in China but came to Canada as a refugee in 2001, was detained in Uzbekistan last March while travelling with his family on Canadian passports. Last summer, Uzbekistan deported him to China, where he faces multiple terrorism-related charges. Despite his Canadian citizenship, Mr. Celil has so far been denied access to Canadian consulate officials or lawyers.

Mr. Celil is a member of the Uighur people, a Muslim minority group whose calls for greater independence have angered officials in Beijing. Chinese officials have for years accused myriad Uighurs of terrorism -- one of Mr. Celil's childhood acquaintances was executed in China earlier this month -- but members of the Uighur community abroad say any act of defiance or separatism easily falls under the Chinese definition of terrorism.

Mehmet Tohti, the president of the Uighur Canadian Association, sent an e-mail to supporters yesterday asking for donations to help raise the $12,000 he estimates it will cost to hire an independent lawyer in China.

Mr. Tohti said he is unsure a new lawyer will be of much use to Mr. Celil. "The political powers in Beijing have already made a decision," he said of Mr. Celil's legal fate.

But a new lawyer might at least be able to prepare and present some documents in Mr. Celil's defence, something it doesn't appear his current lawyer has been able to do, Mr. Tohti said.

Mr. Tohti spoke with Mr. Celil's court-appointed lawyer over the weekend, he said. The lawyer told him he had met with Canadian officials, but otherwise there was little progress.

"He seemed a little bit scared," Mr. Tohti said of the lawyer.

In the meantime, Mr. Celil's immediate fate remains unclear. The first and last time he was seen in a public setting since his detention last March was early this month, when he appeared in a Chinese courtroom to hear charges against him.

While the practice of obtaining an independent lawyer is relatively straightforward in Canada, it is a far more unorthodox process in China, said Alex Neve, Canadian director of Amnesty International. Mr. Neve has been closely working on Mr. Celil's case since early in his detention.

Engaging China requires a balance of values and interests


Special to Globe and Mail Update

The recent exchange in the news media between the Canadian government and China's assistant minister of foreign affairs underlines fundamental differences in the approach to building the kind of relationship where difficult questions can be raised, discussed and settled in a mutually respectful manner that is likely to lead to change. Beijing may place more importance on relationships than other governments, but an open and trusting rapport is a prerequisite to achieving diplomatic goals for most countries.

We support the view that foreign policy toward China must represent the full range of Canada's values and interests, which cannot be pursued in isolation or with one as a precondition to the other. Trade, investment and human rights are all indisputably important elements of the bilateral relationship. No one suggests that Canada pursue a purely commercial relationship. But if the focus is solely on human rights and public rebukes in a situation absent of a trusting relationship, Canada runs the risk of seeing its values ignored without seeing any of its interests met.

There is no doubt that political change in China has proceeded much more slowly than economic development, which has lifted hundreds of millions above the World Bank poverty line since China's opening in 1978. It is not surprising that Beijing has focused on economic rights during its initial growth. But there are many indicators that an understanding of human rights is developing and progress is being made.

China's five-year plan for 2006-2011 focuses very specifically on the quality of growth and social stability. This includes the need to develop environmental protection standards and enforcement, social safety nets, educational improvements, health reform, measures to improve conditions for migrant labour and other goals. Officials spend considerable time examining foreign experiences to see how they might be applied to China.

Canada has played a positive role in this development through engagement from a variety of sources: business, Canadian International Development Agency projects, university exchanges and training programs. China has sought advice from Canadian insurers on various aspects of establishing an effective public pension fund system, a key priority for future social stability. Canadian-trained Chinese judges have been making landmark decisions. While it is often assumed that human rights are universal and inalienable, the institutions we build to protect them are imperfect and are constantly evolving. That has been the case for Canada — our experience is what we need to share.

China has demonstrated considerable openness to hearing ideas. But it is one thing to present ideas and suggestions; it is quite another to make demands. The country's colonial past has made it highly sensitive to perceived outside pressure. There is a growing popular resentment to foreign lecturing in the absence of deep understanding of the Chinese realities. (Even in the Western world, lecturing is a delicate affair, be it presidential candidates in France or U.S. ambassadors in Ottawa.)

With growing global influence, China has become an increasingly active participant in the global economic and political system. An accelerated timetable of World Trade Organization accession, which imposed significant hardships for Chinese domestic firms, demonstrated just how determined the country was to become a full global player. China made a similar commitment to constructive participation in the United Nations and its agencies, as well as in multilateral financial institutions. The importance of China's integration in the international system is perhaps best demonstrated by Beijing's participation in reaching a tentative deal on Pyongyang's nuclear program. If we imagine an isolated, marginalized and nuclear China alongside North Korea, in place of an integrated and engaged China, the situation in that part of the world would be considerably more critical and less predictable.

There is no doubt that the bilateral relationship is complicated by attempts to resolve ongoing consular cases. Certainly, we expect China and other countries to fully recognize and respect the rights of Canadian citizens abroad, and for our government to pursue those interests vigorously. The challenge is overcoming fundamental differences in perspectives in cases such as those of Huseyin Celil and Lai Changxing.

Both Canada and China need to pursue acceptable solutions to individual cases without risking a wide range of bilateral interests. A mutually respectful relationship is a precondition to finding workable solutions to specific cases and maintaining the other dialogues central to the relationship. (China contends Mr. Celil's name is one of many aliases for Guler Dilaver, a Chinese citizen who was under an Interpol red notice at the time that Mr. Celil successfully applied for refugee status in Canada. Mr. Lai remains one of China's most wanted fugitives, but is afforded all due process in Canada.)

Massive social change is clearly under way in China. In order to help encourage and facilitate this reform, we need to appreciate that effective and constructive dialogue, on any subject, is based on a relationship built on trust and mutual respect. And mutual respect requires some understanding of the differences between our own two societies. In this regard, the recent visits by the Canadian Ministers of Finance, International Trade, Natural Resources and Agriculture were most valuable.

Let us therefore engage China effectively on human rights. Let us also have a comprehensive and balanced framework for our bilateral and multilateral discussions. For the pursuit of values without also emphasizing interests puts both at risk.

Sergio Marchi is a former international trade minister and ambassador to the WTO who serves as president of the Canada China Business Council.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Senator blasts Harper's stand on China



CanWest News Service; Vancouver Sun

Published: Thursday, February 22, 2007

Senator Jack Austin said former prime minister Jean Chretien was particularly successful in securing the release of political prisoners.

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "morally-righteous" criticism of China makes it less likely, not more, that Beijing will agree to release political prisoners such as Huseyin Celil, Liberal Senator Jack Austin said Wednesday in an interview marking his retirement from the Senate.

Austin, who has advocated closer Canada-China ties throughout his business and political career, said the government's focus on human rights will backfire for both political prisoners and Canadian businesses.

"It makes it even more difficult," said Austin, who hits the Senate's mandatory-retirement age of 75 on March 2. "How can they let him (Celil) go when it would say to the world, 'Oh, anybody who bashes us on moral high ground will get results from us?'"

Austin said the same dynamic makes it unlikely China will give Canada Approved Destination Status, which would allow Canada to tap into the potentially huge market of middle-class Chinese travelling overseas. Canada is one of the few countries in the world without ADS.

An agreement to improve protection of investor rights for Canadian firms operating in China is also at stake, he said.

Harper and his ministers have regularly blasted China's dismal human rights record, citing in particular the Celil case. The prime minister has said his government won't stop speaking out for the sake of the "almighty dollar."

The Chinese last year jailed the Canadian activist, who was born and raised in China and is a member of the Uyghur minority group, alleging he has terrorist links.

China does not recognize his Canadian citizenship.

A call and e-mail to Harper's office wasn't returned.

Vancouver Sun

© CanWest News Service 2007

Resolve dual-citizenship row with China, MPs urged

Link

Resolve dual-citizenship row with China, MPs urged

300,000 Canadian passport holders at risk because of Beijing's policy, experts warn

OTTAWA -- In the wake of the Huseyin Celil human-rights case, a parliamentary subcommittee is grappling with the question of what Ottawa can do to protect thousands of Canadians of Chinese origin if they run afoul of the authorities in China.

Experts told the international human rights subcommittee of the House yesterday that about 300,000 Canadian passport holders of Chinese origin live or work in China or travel to other places in Asia where their status as Canadian citizens might be questioned if they got into a legal jam.

The Harper government would be wise to turn down the political volume and try to improve relations with Beijing to find a solution to the dual-citizenship issue, the panel was told by Paul Evans, chairman of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, and former Liberal trade minister Sergio Marchi, who is now president of the Canada China Business Council.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has linked relations with China to the case of Mr. Celil, a Canadian born in China and was deported back there by Uzbekistan, even though he was travelling on his Canadian passport. China refuses to recognize dual citizenship for people born in China. Mr. Celil is being tried in China on terrorism charges.

A huge number of other Canadians of Chinese origin are "potentially at risk" because Beijing won't recognize their Canadian citizenship, Mr. Evans said.

"We don't think megaphone diplomacy is an alternative that will advance the cause" of human rights in dealings with China," Mr. Marchi said.

The Chinese resent "being lectured to by foreigners," he added.

"There are times when the Chinese don't make life easy" for Canada, Mr. Marchi said. "That's not reason enough to shout louder."

Mr. Evans said Canada risks losing a lot of business if the Conservative government does not build a warm political relationship with China.

Liberal and Conservative MPs on the subcommittee, including chairman Jason Kenney, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, challenged the witnesses to demonstrate that any Canadian company has lost business with China because the year-old Harper government is taking a harder line on human rights.

It is hard to demonstrate that commercial retaliation takes place, Mr. Evans said. "No, we can't point to specifics. But we don't know yet the full Chinese reaction to cool political relations."

Chinese political officials still have a big say on megaprojects and in what foreign countries are allowed to do business in the aviation and financial-services sectors, Mr. Evans added.

Mr. Marchi said there is evidence France lost a nuclear reactor sale to China because Beijing was angry with a French decision to sell jet warplanes to Taiwan.

Mr. Kenney didn't seem to be impressed, citing current figures showing that Canada runs a lopsided trade deficit with China.

He also said that Canadian business with China did not languish, but actually grew after Canada's chilly response to the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989.

The Chinese are engaging in industrial espionage in Canada, stealing corporate secrets, Mr. Kenney said.

Thursday, February 22, 2007 on Page A2

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Another Canadian held by Chinese


Mississauga electronics supplier held for four months over business dispute
Feb 20, 2007 04:30 AM

STAFF REPORTER

A Chinese Canadian businessman from Mississauga has been detained – without formal charge – in Fujian, China, for four months in the midst of a business dispute with his distribution company's Hong Kong supplier.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has scheduled a hearing into the dispute involving Jimmy Chen Jian Yuan in March. But his wife, Yang Jian Ping, says the family has been bullied by the supplier's parent company in mainland China, Wanlida Group, to turn over most of the company "in exchange for his release by the Chinese authorities."

The company owned by Chen, 50, distributed DVD players and other electronic equipment under the Malata brand name to stores such as the Bay, Sears, Future Shop and Best Buy. Chen was detained by Chinese customs officials upon his arrival Oct. 13 at Shenzhen, on the Hong Kong-mainland border, while he was headed for a trade show in Guangdong and a scheduled meeting with Wanlida executives in their Fujian headquarters.

He was transferred immediately to the Zhang Zhou City First Police Detention in Fujian, where he remains in custody.

The "notice of detention" issued by the Zhang Zhou police Oct. 16 claimed Chen was being held for "the alleged criminal offence of contract fraud," based on Wanlida's allegations that he had defrauded the company of $5 million (U.S.) in inventory.

In 2005, Malata Group (Hong Kong) filed a civil suit in Ontario, complaining that Chen's company hadn't been paying on time. Chen's company argued that there had been shipping delays and quality issues with the Chinese products, leading to high inventory volume and overdue payments.

The Ontario court has since seized the Canadian company's inventory, worth about $3.7 million, as well as bank accounts totalling close to $1.8 million.

The case is expected to be heard next month.

Chen's Beijing lawyer, Li Ke Min, characterized the case as "a typical economic dispute instead of a contract fraud," and insisted China's courts have no jurisdiction because Chen never entered into a direct contract with the mainland China company. The case is a civil matter, not criminal, he noted.

"To protect the interests of the local Wanlida Group Co. Ltd. (in China), some individuals of Zhang Zhou Public Security Authority intervened in an economic dispute regardless of what laws and regulations had stipulated," Li, of the Beijing Ruide Law Office, said in a Chinese-language statement. "What Zhan Zhou Public Security Authority has done to Chen seriously breached related regulations."

Officials with China's embassy in Ottawa and Wanlida in China could not be reached for comment yesterday due to the Chinese New Year holiday.

However, Chinese officials have recognized Chen's Canadian citizenship and allowed the Canadian consul from Guangdong to visit him twice to ensure he's in good health.

According to court documents filed in Ontario, Chen, an electrical engineer who moved here from Fujian in 1994 as an entrepreneur, began wholesaling Wanlida products – most noted for their popular karaoke devices – in Canada in 1999. He registered the Malata trademark here in 2001. The Canadian company had more than $10 million in annual sales in North America and Europe before the seizure shut it down.

Founded by Wu Hui Tian in 1984, Wanlida is one of China's top electronics enterprises, employing 10,000 people. It focuses on high- and new-technology electronics, from small appliances to GPS products to digital audio and video.

Chen's wife told the Star the conflict emerged in 2004, when Wanlida expressed interest in taking control of the independent Canadian operation. The dispute and subsequent civil lawsuit with the Hong Kong company followed.

"My husband and I went to China in good faith, hoping to talk to Mr. Wu and negotiate a settlement. The officers at the customs simply took him for questioning. They sent me away. No one told me why he was taken into custody," recalled Yang, who hasn't been allowed to see her husband since his arrest. The family lawyer has met Chen only three times, the last in December.

Yang points out that the notice of detention, which she managed to obtain later, describes the date of his arrest as June 14 – four months earlier than his actual arrival.

"I wonder whether my husband's detention was legal, or was it merely a case where the Chinese officials are helping the rich people to get whatever they want?" she said in an interview. "The dispute is already in front of a Canadian court and the case should be dealt with here by the rule of law."

The couple's daughter, Chen Yan, said she and her mother met privately with a Wanlida official in Fujian in November, after her father's arrest, and were offered a settlement that would involve transferring 97 per cent of Malata Canada's assets to Wanlida's Hong Kong subsidiary.

"It was proposed to us verbally. They said they'd not show it to us in writing until we promised we'd sign it. Or my father would be in China for a very long time," recalled Chen Yan, 25. "It became very clear to me that my father's arrest is closely related to (the lawsuit here). They basically are using the Chinese authority to arrest my father, so they can force us to settle in Canada."

The family rejected the offer and sought help from Canada's foreign affairs department.

Spokesperson Ambra Dickie said the department is aware of the case but refused to give details, citing the Privacy Act. She did say that under Chinese law a detainee cannot make or receive calls, and visitors are banned except for lawyers and consulate officials.

Chen's detention follows that of another Canadian citizen, Huseyin Celil, 38, a Burlington imam who was arrested last March in Uzbekistan and extradited to China on charges of alleged terrorism, stemming from his political activities on behalf of China's Uyghur minority in the mid-1990s. In that case, Chinese officials have refused to recognize Celil's rights as a dual citizen.

In an Angus Reid survey of 1,175 Canadians released yesterday, 74 per cent believed the Canadian government should more aggressively protest the treatment of Celil and publicly condemn China's action; 72 per cent said Canada must place more emphasis on China's human rights and minority rights, ahead of its economic interests in the country.

According to the foreign affairs department's information booklet for Canadian travellers, when legal issues arise, consular officials do not: intervene in private legal matters; provide legal advice; post bail, fines or fees; get citizens out of jail; take possession of an abducted child; investigate a crime or death; or ask local authorities to give preferential treatment to Canadians.

"Your Canadian citizenship offers no immunity," the 29-page advisory warns.

"Never assume that the legal system of another country is the same as at home. `Innocent until proven guilty' is not a universal principle."

Canadians Assess Action on Huseyin Celil Case

Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research

Canadians Assess Action on Huseyin Celil Case

February 19, 2007

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Many adults in Canada have a clear idea of the way their federal administration should deal with the case of Huseyin Celil, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies. 53 per cent of respondents think the Canadian government should protest the treatment of Celil, who is being held by Chinese authorities on terrorism charges, through regular diplomatic channels.

Conversely, 21 per cent of respondents want the government to publicly condemn China’s actions, even if it risks possible retaliation, while 12 per cent would let the Chinese legal system determine whether Celil is guilty.

On Feb. 9, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper responded to the statements of a Chinese official who warned Canada not to criticize the Asian country’s human rights record because it could harm bilateral relations, saying, "I would point out to any Chinese official that just as a matter of fact, China had a huge trade surplus with this country, so it would be in the interest of the Chinese government to make sure any dealings on trade are fair and above board." 72 per cent of respondents think Canada should place more emphasis on human rights and minority rights, regardless of the economic implications, in its long-term policy with China.

In relation to the Celil’s case, Harper added: "There are those in the opposition who will say, ‘You know, China is an important country, so we shouldn’t really protest these things (...) so maybe someday we’ll be able to sell more goods there.’ I think that’s irresponsible. I think the government of Canada, when a Canadian citizen is ill-treated and when the rights of a Canadian citizen need to be defended, I think it’s always the obligation of the government of Canada to vocally and publicly stand up for that Canadian citizen. That is what we will continue to do."

Celil immigrated to Canada in 2001, and was arrested and sent to China during a trip to Uzbekistan in 2006. China has treated Celil as a Chinese citizen, despite the fact that the country signed an agreement with Canada in 1997, where it pledges to consider any person travelling with a Canadian passport as a Canadian citizen, regardless of his or her place of birth.

Polling Data

As you may know, a dual Chinese-Canadian citizen named Huseyin Celil is being held by Chinese authorities on terrorism charges. The Canadian government believes there is no clear evidence that Celil, a minority rights activist, has committed any offences. Which of these statements comes closest to your own view?

The Canadian government should
protest the treatment of Celil through
regular diplomatic channels

53%

The Canadian government should
publicly condemn China’s actions, even
if it risks possible retaliation

21%

The Canadian government should do
nothing and let the Chinese legal system
determine whether Celil is guilty

12%

Not sure

14%

In terms of Canada’s long-term policy with China, where do you think we should place more emphasis?

On human rights and minority rights,
regardless of the economic implications

72%

On the trading relationship, regardless
of the human rights situation in China

28%

Source: Angus Reid Strategies
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,175 Canadian adults, conducted on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, 2007. Margin of error is 2.9 per cent.

for PDF Report

Sunday, February 18, 2007

With China, quiet diplomacy's a better bet

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

An apparent misunderstanding clouds how Canadians view dustups over human rights. We seem to think that because a person holds a Canadian passport, he or she should automatically be accorded the full protection of the Canadian government, including consular access. Nothing could be further from reality in countries that do not recognize dual citizenship, such as Iran and Syria. If someone there is a dual national, the Canadian citizenship doesn't count.

China is a different story. In 1997, Canada and China signed an agreement whereby, if a dual citizen entered China on a Canadian passport, China agreed he or she would be considered a Canadian.

Confusion over Canada's ability and right to intervene on behalf of dual nationals is apparently not known by at least some of the dual nationals themselves, despite lots of information on government websites and documents. Some people seem unaware of their precarious legal status when travelling to their country of origin, expecting, if they get in trouble, that the Canadian government can, and will, come to their aid.

These days, attention is focused on the case of Huseyin Celil, who emigrated to Canada from China. On a trip to Uzbekistan, he was arrested and shipped to China. He has been held at an undisclosed location for about eight months.

If he entered China on his Canadian passport, he ought to have been afforded Canadian consular access. Chances are, however, the Chinese grabbed him, disregarded his Canadian passport, claimed him to be Chinese, and are telling Canada to butt out.

As part of their campaign of lecturing and hectoring the Chinese, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other ministers have been pressing the Celil case, demanding Canadian consular access.

From China's perspective, Mr. Celil isn't a Canadian. This observation does not defend the Chinese treatment of Mr. Celil, but it does explain some of the evident confusion. The Chinese consider it a bit rich being lectured to by Canada, a convenient place for refugees from Chinese justice to land and remain.

Lai Changxing fled China in 1999 as the alleged mastermind of a multi-billion dollar smuggling ring. He's not the first alleged crook from China and other countries to land in Canada and demand refugee status. Given our creaky refugee system, he certainly won't be the last.

Immigration Canada finally got a deportation order for Mr. Lai in June of 2006. A ticket was purchased for his return to China. At the last second, Madam Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson of the Federal Court stayed the deportation because Mr. Lai might be executed or face torture in China. More legal reviews are unfolding. The Chinese, reasonably enough, are peeved.

Mr. Lai's is not the only example of people wanted in China fleeing to Canada. A pair of Bank of China employees reached Vancouver in 2001 after allegedly stealing $57-million from a branch in south China. They have not been returned.

Beijing has formally asked Ottawa to arrest and deport a fugitive bank manager, Gao Shan, who is accused of embezzling $150-million from customers. No response.

Corruption is endemic in China. Western countries and businesses bemoan shady dealings, shakedowns, copyright violations, lack of property rights and payoffs. Yet, when China does go after someone for corruption, and that someone flees to Canada for safety, we don't act expeditiously to help. Instead, we lecture the Chinese about their human-rights record.

People in custody here are not tortured, as they sometimes are in China. Legal protections exist in Canada that eclipse anything in China. But from China's perspective, we lecture it about how it handles cases but we slough off its complaints about its nationals taking refuge in Canada.

The Harper government is very keen on finger-wagging at the Chinese. The chief finger-wagger is a junior minister, Jason Kenney, who used to be Mr. Harper's parliamentary secretary and saw him every day. His job in Cabinet is to win ethnic votes for the Conservatives.

Maybe the Harperites think finger-wagging is good domestic politics and a clever way to run foreign policy. It would help the credibility of this finger-wagging if Canada handled cases of concern to the Chinese with a little more dispatch.

It's also likely, although counterintuitive to neophytes in foreign policy, that quiet persistence wins human-rights cases more often than megaphone diplomacy.jsimpson@globeandmail.com

Who is Huseyin Celil?

Caught in the grip of Beijing

He is a very stubborn man, a pious imam and a proud Uighur. He's drawn the wrath of China's authorities who brand him a terrorist. Huseyin Celil is also a Canadian, jailed in an unknown prison in western China. And his case is straining relations between the two nations

URUMQI, CHINA and BURLINGTON, ONT. -- The Chinese justice system took its first crack at Huseyin Celil on a late summer day in 1994.

In most countries, his offence would not have provoked an arrest and a jail term. The young imam was accused of using a megaphone to amplify the call to prayers at his mosque, standard practice in most Muslim countries. In China, it landed him in prison.

The 25-year-old religious leader was jailed for 48 days, according to his family, the beginning of a cat-and-mouse game that would stretch over 13 years, two continents, and at least six countries. Even in the years he spent outside the country, China's interest in Mr. Celil never seemed to wane; it even led to regular searches of his relatives' homes long after he was gone.

Mr. Celil believed he had finally reached safety when he won protection from UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, and then entered Canada in 2001.

But that refuge proved temporary. Today Mr. Celil languishes in an unknown prison in the far west of China, facing a heavy sentence or possible execution on terrorism allegations. His case has triggered a crisis in Canadian-Chinese relations.

A close look at Mr. Celil's life story, based on interviews and research by The Globe and Mail over the past several months in Canada and China, reveals a portrait of an intensely stubborn man who defied the will of the Chinese authorities for most of his life.

In China's eyes, Mr. Celil is not just a religious man from a farming community, he is a citizen accused of terrorism, and the definition of terrorism extends well beyond the realm of violence. Human-rights groups argue that peaceful protest or rebellion easily fall under the scope of what China considers a crime.

In the official Chinese view of the Celil case, Canada matters little.

"Of course, as a courtesy, we will brief your embassy officials [about what happens to Mr. Celil]," He Yafei, China's assistant minister of foreign affairs for North America, said this month, "but as a matter of courtesy, not as a matter of obligation."

China has so far produced no details to support the charges against Mr. Celil. Senior Canadian officials have repeatedly tried to gain access to the imprisoned Canadian, but China refuses to budge. It is on this point that Ottawa and Beijing have had trouble seeing eye-to-eye. Canadian officials have not questioned China's right to level charges against Mr. Celil, but they do object to being prohibited from seeing him.

All the Canadian government knows is that Mr. Celil is charged in connection with terrorist acts.

"I have never seen any documentation of direct evidence whatsoever to link Mr. Celil [to these acts]," Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said in an interview yesterday. In his strongest criticism yet of Beijing's handling of the Celil case, Mr. MacKay said Chinese authorities have shown "complete indifference to our desire, and more importantly [Mr. Celil's family's] desire to know about his well-being."

China regularly denies travel documentation to anyone seen as defying the party line on national unity. As such, Mr. Celil has never been allowed to carry a Chinese passport, his family and lawyers say. They add that he actively tried to renounce his Chinese citizenship upon his arrival in Canada, but China has no mechanism for people to do so.

China maintains a tight grip on Xinjiang, the predominantly Muslim region on the western fringes of the country. By refusing to kowtow to Chinese limits on religion, Mr. Celil doomed himself to a lifetime of conflict with state police and security agents.

Mr. Celil was born on March 1, 1969, on a small farm about 70 kilometres from Kashgar, a Muslim city in Xinjiang. He was the second-youngest of nine children. His impoverished parents grew cotton and wheat on a single hectare of farmland, earning an annual income of barely $250 (U.S.).

He and his family were members of the Uighur ethnic people -- the traditional majority in Xinjiang. The Uighurs, like the Tibetans, were resentful of Chinese dominance of their homeland. Like the Tibetans, they have been subjected to decades of repression by Chinese authorities who feared an independence movement.

Uighur activists have fought for greater autonomy from China, many of them seeking to regain the independence that the region briefly claimed in the 1930s and the 1940s after Muslim rebellions against Chinese rule. By the late 1980s, the conflict would erupt into sporadic violence, and China responded with a harsh crackdown.

At the age of 13, Mr. Celil graduated from primary school. But, unlike his eight siblings who stayed on the farm, Mr. Celil decided to continue his education by going to mosques to study the Koran. After three years at rural mosques, he moved to Kashgar to continue his religious studies for another two years.

It was an unusual move for a farm boy, revealing the defiant nature that continued throughout his life. He became the first in his family to study the Koran. "We were very proud of him," said his older brother, Sarmeti Celil.

By the early 1990s, still in his early 20s, Mr. Celil was an imam at a small mosque in Kashgar. He was also running a small clothing shop to earn a living.

The young imam was already attracting the attention of the Chinese police. He was ordered to obey Chinese restrictions on what he could say to the believers at his mosque, but his family says he sometimes violated them.

In the early 1990s, China was in the midst of a massive campaign against Muslim leaders in Xinjiang. To maintain control of the restive Muslim region, it imposed a series of rules on the mosques. Cameras were installed inside, while police agents attended the services and public servants were warned that they could lose their jobs if they attended.

At the peak of the conflict, terrorists detonated several bombs in the region, including on public buses. China blamed the Uighurs, and hundreds were rounded up and arrested, far more than the small handful who may have been involved in the violent attacks, human-rights groups say. China began to use the word "terrorist" to apply to almost anyone who advocated independence for the Uighurs.

After years of harassment from the police and a term in prison, Mr. Celil decided to flee the country. His family says he managed to leave China for the first time in 1995 to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Muslim holy city. A few months later, after a brief return to Kashgar, he fled to Central Asia, making his way eventually to Kyrgyzstan, China's neighbour to the northwest, where he continued in the clothing trade and served as an imam in a Uighur mosque. Both the trips to Mecca and Kyrgyzstan, according to family members in Canada, were made using fake passports. China, they say, never granted Mr. Celil a passport; the first and last legitimate one he held was Canadian.

His family and his lawyer say that's why, in the two years he spent in Kyrgyzstan, the last nine months of which were in a jail cell, Mr. Celil used the name Guler Dilaver.

It was 1998, and the bazaars in Kyrgyzstan were thriving.

Mr. Celil was living in the capital city of Bishkek at the time, selling silk and clothes in the sprawling markets alongside other Uighur traders. There was a sizable Uighur community in the country, but almost all of them were considered illegal, so a black market in passports evolved within the community. According to relatives and friends who knew him at the time, Mr. Celil purchased one. The name on the Turkish document was Guler Dilaver, born in 1955. Using this passport, Mr. Celil lived in Kyrgyzstan for two years, working as a trader but also preaching Islam on the side.

In the middle of 1998, Mr. Celil was picked up by Kyrgyzstani police. According to statements made to the Uighur Canadian Association by both his former cellmate and former lawyer, Mr. Celil was charged with crimes, including "creating hatred among the people," a charge related to his religious sermons. He spent nine months in jail waiting for a trial. And when that trial finally came, his lawyer at the time alleges, there were Chinese officials in the courtroom watching. Both his lawyer and cellmate say he was eventually acquitted in December of 1998. The first thing he did upon his release, they say, is flee Kyrgyzstan.

During the same period, beginning in 1996, when Mr. Celil first left China, Chinese police were keeping a close watch on his family in Xinjiang. They searched the house almost every month, looking for religious texts and demanding to know his whereabouts, his family says.

His family did not find that surprising. Every family with a son who was trained at a mosque or who had fled the country was routinely raided and searched, they say.

"Of course we were angry about it, but they are the police and so we have no choice," Sarmeti Celil said. "We are afraid of the police. We suffered a lot of stress. Our lives were always interrupted. There was never anything they wanted in our rooms, so why did they keep searching us?"

Mr. Celil's first step on what would be an arduous journey to Canada began when he crossed the border from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan. Still using a fake passport, he sought refuge with the Uighur community, eventually meeting a man in a local bazaar who not only gave him refuge, but introduced him to his daughter.

Kamila Telendibaeva and Mr. Celil were married a month later.

"He was educated," Ms. Telendibaeva recalls. "He knew the Koran, he knew the hadith," she said, referring to the Muslim holy book and the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Mohammed.

(Mr. Celil's first marriage, to a woman who lived near his family's farm in Xinjiang, had ended in divorce.)

But it was only after Ms. Telendibaeva and Mr. Celil were married that he told her he'd just finished a stint in jail and needed to flee the region. The honeymoon was barely over when, in 1999, Mr. Celil left for Turkey with three fellow refugees. In the summer of 1999, the four managed to enter Turkey through Syria. Ms. Telendibaeva joined them a month later.

The couple had their first child, Mohammad, while in Turkey. About six months after his birth, Mohammad's parents found out their son had serious health problems and need near-constant supervision.

Mr. Celil and his wife applied for refugee status with UNHCR. While the United Nations agency would have performed the initial background check on the couple, Canadian officials would have performed a number of security checks to ensure the refugees needed protection.

In the spring of 2000, their claim was accepted, and in October of 2001, they left for Canada after two years in Turkey.

It was during those two years that Guler Dilaver allegedly killed a man.

According to a letter released by the Uzbek embassy in London, Mr. Dilaver is wanted by Kyrgyzstan police for involvement in the "assassination of the head of Uighur society in Kyrgyz Republic on 28 March, 2000, and terrorist act against the state delegation of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China on 25 May, 2000." The Uzbek letter claims Mr. Celil and Mr. Dilaver are the same person.

A UNHCR spokeswoman said it would be highly unlikely for a refugee-in-waiting to travel outside the country in which he claimed asylum, since he would have no travel documents.

Mr. Celil's Canadian lawyer agrees. "It's just not realistic for this guy to have done that," said Chris MacLeod. "He would have forsaken his UNHCR status, left his disabled kid and wife, forged documents, made it there and back -- it's just not doable."

The Uzbek embassy letter also claims that Mr. Celil is on an Interpol wanted list. However, the Interpol referred to in the letter is the "Interpol National Central Bureau in Uzbekistan." Had Mr. Celil been on the Western Interpol list, Mr. MacLeod said, he would have never passed Canadian security checks. "Rest assured that [Canadian immigration officials] did not treat Huseyin any differently than any other Muslim man from Central Asia."

But the Dilaver allegations wouldn't surface for several more years. In October of 2001, Mr. Celil and his wife had other things on their minds, like their trip to Canada, the first country Mr. Celil could legitimately call home.

There aren't too many Uighurs in Halifax.

After a six-hour trip via Holland, Mr. Celil and his wife touched down in Canada for the first time in late 2001. "It was a bit boring, there was no one in our community," said Ms. Telendibaeva, who was pregnant with the couple's second child while in Halifax.

They studied English, Mr. Celil delivered food and occasionally cooked for an Arabic restaurant. But after 1½ years, they decided to move to Hamilton. There aren't too many Uighurs there, either, but the Turkish community, with which the couple share a common language, is much larger. They stayed there for two years before moving into a modest home in nearby Burlington.

It was a happy time for the couple. Ms. Telendibaeva became pregnant with their third child. Mr. Celil was back to studying, and volunteered part-time at a Turkish mosque. To top it off, the couple received their Canadian citizenship in November of 2005.

In an indirect way, that was when Mr. Celil's troubles really began.

By then, Ms. Telendibaeva had been away from her family for about six years. Her mother was sick and wanted to see her grandchildren. So in February of 2006, just three months after obtaining Canadian passports, Mr. Celil and his family flew to central Asia. They had no trouble getting visas to Kyrgyzstan, where Mr. Celil had been jailed in 1998, or Uzbekistan, where Ms. Telendibaeva's family lived.

In late March, Mr. Celil went with Ms. Telendibaeva's brother and father to a government office in Uzbekistan to ask for a one-week visa extension, so Mr. Celil's son could recuperate from a circumcision operation before travelling. After waiting for several hours, the three were confronted by Uzbek police, who told them they needed to speak with Mr. Celil. It was the last time Ms. Telendibaeva or her family saw him.

For five days, the family awaited word of Mr. Celil's fate. When nothing came, they went to a Canadian consular office. "[Canadian officials] asked why he was arrested," Ms. Telendibaeva said. "I told them, 'go find out.' "

But by the time Ms. Telendibaeva, pregnant with the couple's fourth child, had to go back to Canada in May, she knew virtually nothing about what was going to happen to her husband.

A few weeks after Mr. Celil's detention, Chris MacLeod received an urgent call at his home in Hamilton, outlining Mr. Celil's plight. Mr. MacLeod's wife is from Iran, and he had met Mr. Celil at social functions. Although it had nothing to do with the kind of law he normally practised -- he's a business-litigation expert -- he decided to take the case.

It didn't take long before Ottawa became acquainted with Mr. Celil's case. On his way to a meeting in Asia in the spring of 2006, Mr. MacKay met with the Uzbek ambassador. Mr. MacKay said the ambassador initially denied any knowledge of Mr. Celil's whereabouts, even though Mr. Celil was still detained in Uzbekistan at the time, but promised to look into it.

The Uzbeks did look into it. On June 26, they informed Canadian officials that Mr. Celil had been deported to China. Canadian officials would soon see just what China thought of the detained Canadian.

During a trip to Kuala Lumpur in July, Mr. MacKay tried to bring up Mr. Celil's case with his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing. Upon hearing the detained man's name, a puzzled look came over Mr. Li's face until an aide whispered something in his ear, Mr. MacKay recalled.

"Oh," Mr. Li said. "You mean the terrorist." For the rest of the meeting, that's how Mr. Li referred to Mr. Celil.

That meeting contrasted sharply with the one Mr. MacKay had with Ms. Telendibaeva after her husband's detention. By now heavily pregnant, the woman was, as Mr. MacKay saw, deeply distraught.

"The stress and strain was written on her face," Mr. Mackay said. "Both the consequences and impact [of the Celil case] were obvious from Day 1."

In October of last year, Prime Minster Stephen Harper visited Toronto. He was there to speak on crime prevention and other issues. But in the meeting room of a Marriot hotel suite, he met Ms. Telendibaeva and her lawyer. By then, Mr. Celil had already been sent to China. It was the first time anyone could recall a prime minister talking in person with the spouse of a Canadian detained abroad. The meeting was scheduled for 10 minutes; it lasted 40.

"That was the turning point," Mr. MacLeod said. "The Prime Minister could put a face to the file."

The meeting was perhaps the most direct sign that Mr. Harper was taking the case seriously. He brought Mr. Celil's case up with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Hanoi in November, and publicly stated he wouldn't put the countries' economic relationship ahead of human rights.

Information out of China in the months after Mr. Celil's deportation was scarce. Relying on second- and third-hand reports, his family first heard that he was to be executed for vague terrorism charges; then that he had been sentenced to 15 years, a rumour that turned out to be false; then that he had been granted another trial.

His whereabouts in China and the details of the charges against him are unknown. The first time anyone other than his prison guards got a look at him was about two weeks ago, when he appeared before a court in northwest China. Canadian consular officials didn't show up for the hearing, clearly angering Mr. Harper. The highest offices in Ottawa quickly instructed Canadian officials in China to trek northwest and try to meet with Mr. Celil and observe the next stage of his trial.

But as far as Mr. Celil's family knows, there is no next stage; his six-hour appearance in early February was the trial. The next time he shows up in a courtroom, they suspect, will be to hear his sentence.

These days, much of Ms. Telendibaeva's time is taken up with her children. Her oldest son needs a wheelchair and near-constant supervision; her youngest, born last summer, has never seen his father.

Mr. Celil's imprisonment has made life complicated for 29-year-old Ms. Telendibaeva in more ways than one. Her youngest son's birth certificate is proving difficult to obtain; he cannot inherit his father's last name without his father's signature. She had trouble getting six-month-old Zubeyir into the United States last month when she went to testify about Mr. Celil's case before the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which gives policy recommendations to the President and Congress. Ms. Telendibaeva's mother arrived in Canada last year to help her daughter take care of the children, and renewing her visa is yet another challenge.

Sitting in the cramped living room of her small Burlington house, Ms. Telendibaeva speaks in broken but improving English. Welfare pays the $411 rent on a home that, since last year, has been visited by myriad journalists, politicians and activists from around the world. The walls are decorated with pictures of Mecca, religious scripture and a framed drawing of a mansion, a helicopter and a speedboat. Above the drawing are the words: "All I want is world peace and . . ."

Some time in the next month, Ms. Telendibaeva's husband will make another court appearance in China. His trial might continue, or he might be sentenced. Canadian officials might get to meet with him, or they might not. He might see his wife and children again, or he might not.

Asked what message she would send to her husband if she could, Ms. Telendibaeva paused, the incessant noise of children's toys blaring in the background."I don't know," she said finally. "We miss him."

The charges

Huseyin Celil's lawyer says he has been charged under two articles of the Chinese criminal code.

Article 103: "Whoever organizes, plots or acts to split the country or undermine national unification, the ringleader, or the one whose crime is grave, is to be sentenced to life imprisonment or not less than 10 years of fixed-term imprisonment; other active participants are to be sentenced to not less than three but not more than 10 years of fixed-term imprisonment; and other participants are to be sentenced to not more than three years of fixed-term imprisonment, criminal detention, control, or deprivation of political rights."

Article 120: "Whoever organizes, leads, and actively participates in a terrorist organization is to be sentenced to not less than three years but not more than 10 years of fixed-term imprisonment; other participants are to be sentenced to not more than three years of fixed-term imprisonment, criminal detention or control. Whoever commits the crime in the preceding paragraph and also commits murder, explosion, or kidnapping is to be punished according to the regulations for punishing multiple crimes."

*****

The plight of the Uighurs

Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Asians who live mainly in western China. Their history has been interwoven with that of China since they rose to prominence in the eighth century, when they established their first true state in Mongolia. Relations between the Chinese and the Uighurs were never entirely comfortable, however, and the Chinese considered them a barbarian people.

In fact, the Uighurs were advanced in art, architecture, music and medicine, and they practised a complex agriculture, using an extensive system of canals for irrigation. Their history had included adherence to shamanism, Manicheism and Buddhism, but at about the turn of the 10th century, they embraced Islam.

In 1911, after the Nationalist Chinese overthrew the Manchu dynasty and established a republic, the Uighurs, who had been forcibly annexed by the Manchu rulers, staged a series of uprisings in favour of independence. Two successful attempts to set up their own republic were overthrown by military intervention.

After the Chinese revolution in 1949, the Uighurs fell under Communist Party rule. The government flooded Xinjiang, the province in which most Uighurs live, with Han Chinese migrants; pushed the locals to learn Mandarin; and restricted the practice of Islam.

Relations between the modern Chinese state and its Uighur minority are still fraught. Beijing believes the Uighurs pose a separatist threat and Uighurs complain that oil and gas production in Xinjiang has been conducted at their expense, without just recompense. In the mid-1990s, Uighurs carried out widespread protests and even bombings against Chinese rule.

China, for its part, has launched a crackdown on the Uighurs, arresting and executing many in trials criticized by human-rights groups as unfair. China has long linked the region to terrorism, and has attacked what it says are terrorists and training camps in the province.

But while many Uighurs want greater autonomy for their region, few advocate the cause of independence that motivates a handful of extremist groups.

Human-rights observers believe China uses the idea of a Uighur terrorist threat as an excuse to crack down on all dissent. They accuse the government of carrying out arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, torture and religious discrimination in the region.

*****

Seeking a haven around the world

Huseyin Celil's globetrotting began with his efforts to escape first Chinese and then Kyrgystan authorities. His story ends up back in China, where he is now imprisoned.

Start

China

1994: Kyrgyzstan

1998: Uzbekistan

Turkmenistan

Iran

Iraq

Syria

1999: Turkey

Oct., 2001: Toronto

Halifax

2003: Hamilton

2005: Burlington

Feb., 2006: Moscow

March, 2006: Kyrgyzstan

June, 2006: China

Finish

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Terrifying parallels

Terrifying parallels

John Rennison, the Hamilton Spectator

Kamila Telendibaeva, With Mohammad, 7, Abdujelil, 3, Badruddin, 2 and Zubeyir, Six Months, Worries About Her Husband.

Man executed in China belonged to same minority group as Burlington detainee

By Dana Borcea
With Spectator wire services
(Feb 10, 2007)

The wife of a Burlington man imprisoned in China is reeling after hearing that another man, detained for similar reasons, has been executed.

Kamila Telendibaeva sat in the living room of her Burlington home and wept Wednesday as she listened to the choked words of the man's widow on Radio Free Asia.

"She was crying and couldn't speak very clearly," she said.

The woman's sorrow resonated with Telendibaeva, whose own husband, Huseyin Celil, was arrested last March while visiting his wife's family in Uzbekistan.

Three months later, officials there handed the former Hamilton imam over to neighbouring China, where he is accused of participating in alleged terrorist separatist activities.

Ismail Semed was reportedly shot to death on Tuesday after spending years in a Chinese prison in the same western Chinese province where Huseyin is being held.

Both belonged to the same Uyghur minority group whose members claim they have struggled for decades under repressive Chinese occupation.

China has long insisted that militants among the Turkish-speaking Muslim group are part of a violent separatist movement.

Telendibaeva said Semed's shooting came as a blow to the Uyghur community worldwide, who recognized him as an outspoken critic of the Chinese regime.

But it hit Telendibaeva especially hard.

"I couldn't sleep that night," she said. "I was thinking of my husband and about China and how they kidnap Uyghur people everywhere."

Telendibaeva does not fear that her husband will be killed. She maintains "the shame would be too much for China."

But she fears the abuses he is suffering. "In a Chinese prison, anything is possible," she says.

Her husband's arrest has meant the 29-year-old is raising the couple's four children alone. Their youngest, six months old, has never met his father.

News of Semed's execution came just days after Telendibaeva received her first update about Celil in months.

Relatives called on Sunday to say they had seen him during a brief court appearance where he told the court he had been tortured by captors who used sleep deprivation and threats in a failed attempt to make him confess to terrorist activities. It was the family's first indication he was still alive.

The absence of any Canadian officials during Celil's court appearance, along with claims he was tortured, have increased pressure on Canadian politicians to secure access to Celil.

In parliament yesterday, Wayne Marston, MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, urged the Harper government to send an all-party delegation to China to advocate for consular access and a fair trial for Celil.

"We need to show China we are serious about protecting our citizens," said the NDP human rights critic.

Celil came to Canada as a refugee six years ago and became a citizen in 2005. Chinese officials have rejected claims he is a Canadian citizen and have denied Canadian diplomats access to him.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters yesterday his government would not be swayed by a Chinese official's recent comments that Canada's criticism of China's human rights record was hurting trade between the two countries.

dborcea@thespec.com

905-526-3214

Monday, February 12, 2007

Celil Won't Face Death Penalty in China: MacKay


Josh Pringle
Sunday, February 11, 2007

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay says the Canadian Government is doing everything it can to convince China to respect the rights of Huseyin Celil.

The Burlington father of six is accused of terrorism, and China doesn't recognize his dual citizenship.

MacKay told CTV's Question Period that there's no reason why Canada cannot insist on respect for human rights, and still have trade with China.

MacKay says China needs Canada's natural resources and notes Canada has a huge trade surplus with China.

The Foreign Affairs Minister adds China has given assurances Celil won't face the death penalty in his trial, which is underway.

Harper warns China on human-rights trade threat


y Randall Palmer Fri Feb 9, 5:58 PM ET

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Beijing on Friday against trying to use trade as a lever to deflect criticism of its human rights record, including its treatment of a Canadian imprisoned in China.
He gave a blunt response to remarks by a Chinese official, published on Friday, that the two countries need to trust each other for their economic relationship to flourish.

"I would point out today to any Chinese official just as a matter of fact that China has a huge trade surplus with this country," Harper told reporters in the Atlantic port of Halifax.

"So I think it would be in the interest of the Chinese government to be sure that any dealings with Canada on trade are absolutely fair and above board."

Harper has for months sparred verbally with China over the case of Huseyincan Celil, a citizen of both countries and a Muslim imam whom China charges with terrorism.

The Chinese official in question is the assistant minister of foreign affairs for North America, He Yafei, who told Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper that Canada's trade and political relationships were falling behind.

"The economic relationship goes hand in hand with the political relationship," He Yafei said.

"We need to have a sound political basis of mutual trust for the economic relationship to flourish. That's why we need to work harder to improve mutual trust."

Opposition politicians in Canada have criticized Harper for his direct words over the Celil affair, but Harper told the news conference in Halifax: "Canada's trade with China has lagged for a very long number of years.

"It lagged under governments that were not prepared to speak out about human rights in any way, shape or form."

Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism, met He Yafei in Ottawa on Friday afternoon. Kenney told Parliament before the meeting that he would again raise Celil's case.

China has denied Celil access to Canadian diplomats and says they have no right to be present at court hearings. It has refused to tell them when he would appear in court.

Harper was unhappy to learn that Canadian diplomats were not present at a court hearing in Urumqi in northwestern China last Friday, and Kenney said two diplomats have now been dispatched to Urumqi on direct instructions from Harper.

Canada-China row intensifies over terrorism charges


dpa German Press Agency
Published: Thursday February 8, 2007

Montreal- The Canadian government came under fire Thursday for its handling of a diplomatic row with China, after the family of a Chinese-Canadian held on terrorism charges said he had been abandoned by Canadian diplomats. Huseyin Celil, a member of the Muslim ethnic Uighur community who lived in the Xingjiang province of China, was arrested on terrorism charges in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent while visiting family on March 27, 2006.

He was extradited to China three months later under an agreement between the Uzbek and Chinese governments.

Celil, 38, came to Canada in 2001 as a refugee after already spending several years in a Chinese prison, accused of dissidence. He became a Canadian citizen in 2005.

China does not recognize his Canadian citizenship and has said that the matter will be handled internally. They have reportedly been angered by Canada's attempts to have Celil released.

The Uighur community has been accused by China of plotting terrorist acts in an effort to achieve an autonomous Islamic state in the region called East Turkistan.

Celil's wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, who lives with the couple's four children outside of Toronto claimed early in the week that Celil has been abandoned by Canadian officials, after he made a court appearance in China last week but no consular representatives attended the hearing.

"They could have done more," Telendibaeva told the Toronto Star newspaper. "They missed an opportunity to see him."

At the court proceedings last week at Urumqi in Xingjiang province, Celil reportedly claimed that he had been tortured for several days in order to extract a confession that he was plotting terrorist attacks against China. He added that he had been badgered by interrogators, denied food and water and threatened with being burned and buried alive.

On Thursday, opposition parties hammered away at Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the Canadian parliament, calling him a "bumbling cold warrior" and charging that his aggressive approach towards diplomatic relations with China had compromised Canada's ability to assist Celil.

Harper deflected the criticism, saying that they had taken the issue up with the Chinese government on several occasions.

The row has been one of several between Canada and China over the past several months.

In April, China issued a forceful denial that they were engaging in industrial espionage in Canada, responding to allegations by Harper's government. China, in turn, was offended when Canada presented the Dalai Lama with honorary citizenship in September and by Harper's criticism of China's human rights record last November.

Harper was reportedly displeased by the lack of Canadian presence at the hearing and has ordered diplomats in the region to the courts. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mackay has reportedly also personally intervened.

The international human rights group Amnesty International has issued several alerts over Celil's status and treatment since his arrest last year.

Canadian consular officials in Ottawa would not comment on China's lack of recognition of Celil's Canadian citizenship or on reports that Celil had been denied access to diplomatic support by Chinese officials.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency

China Executes Uighur Activist


Friday , 09 February 2007

BEIJING — China has executed Uighur Muslim activist Ismail Samed on charges of "splitting the Chinese motherland" with rights groups and his lawyer slamming his trial as politically motivated and unfair.

"When the body was transferred to us at the cemetery I saw only one bullet hole in his heart," Semed's widow, Buhejer, told the US-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Friday, February 9, Reuters reported.

Semed was executed in the far-west Chinese city of Urumqi, capital of the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, at 9:00 am local time Thursday, February 8.

He was deported to China from Pakistan in 2003 and was sentenced to death October 31, 2005 by the Urumqi City Intermediate People's Court for "attempting to split the motherland" and "possessing firearms and explosives," Uighur sources told the radio station.

Sources close to the case said the charges were based on the allegation that Semed was a founding member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Muslim Uighur movement which Beijing has branded terrorist.

China has waged a harsh campaign in recent years against Muslim separatists struggling to set up an independent "East Turkestan" in Xinjiang.

The Uighurs are a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million whose traditional homeland lies in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in north-west China.

Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of crackdowns by Chinese authorities, who have been accused by rights groups of religious repression against Uighurs in the name of counter-terrorism efforts.

Beijing views Xinjiang as an invaluable asset because of its crucial strategic location near Central Asia and its large oil and gas reserves.

Coerced

Buhejer said her husband had told the court that his confession had been coerced.

"They forced me," she quoted him as saying.

"…Previously, he had said his leg hurt, and his stomach hurt, and other parts of his body hurt, and that he needed medicine," she said.

The grieved widow said she was informed her husband was going to be put to death on Monday and was allowed to visit him briefly that same day, according to RFA.

"(It was) only for 10 minutes, we didn't have too much time to talk ...".

He told her to "take care of our children and let them get a good education".

Semed has a young son and daughter.

Two other Uighurs who testified against Semed were also executed, RFA quoted unnamed sources in the region as saying.

Unfair

The execution of the Uighur Muslim activist has drawn fire from human rights groups for lack of credible evidence on the charges.

"We don't think there was sufficient evidence to condemn him," said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based China researcher of Human Rights Watch.

"The death penalty was widely disproportionate to the alleged crimes ... his trial did not meet minimum requirements of fairness and due process."

The World Uighur Congress, an exile group, also said the prosecution had presented no hard evidence for a conviction.

"His trial, like most Uighur political prisoners' trials, was not fair," it said in a statement.

T. Kumar of Amnesty International in Washington also denounced the activist's execution.

He said "hundreds, if not thousands, were killed or seriously injured" in Xinjiang since February 1997.

Semed's execution came amid strained ties between China and Canada over the trial of an ethnic Uighur Canadian citizen in Beijing.

Huseyin Celil, 37, was arrested and jailed in China on terrorism charges in March 2006 and has not been heard from since.

Celil, who fled China a decade ago, arrived in Canada in 2001 as a refugee and became a Canadian citizen, but Beijing refuses to regard him as a Canadian citizen.

He was arrested in Uzbekistan in February 2006 while visiting his wife's parents and deported to China.

Celil's case was reportedly brought up during a meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of an Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi in November.

Celil's family charged that he was tortured by police.

"They forced him to sign a confession, or he would be put in a hole and buried alive," his mother told the Canadian television Thursday.

Copyright © 1999-2007 Islam Online All rights reserved Disclaimer. Republished with permission

Canadian 'anger' at China trial

Canadian 'anger' at China trial
Uighurs at prayer
Amnesty International says Uighurs are being wrongly persecuted
The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is said to be "displeased" that Canadian diplomats did not attend the trial in China of a Canadian
Uighur.

Huseyincan Celil, an ethnic Uighur and a rights activist, is on trial on terrorism charges in Urumqi in Xinjiang, home to a Muslim majority.

His wife told the BBC that relatives in the courtroom say he told the court he had been tortured by secret police.

Mr Celil also holds Chinese nationality and is being tried as a Chinese.

An unnamed official told the Reuters news agency that Canadian Foreign Minister Peter McKay had also said he was unhappy that Canadian diplomats failed to witness court proceedings.

But Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Helena Guergis said Canada was continuing to make representations to the Chinese authorities.

"Our requests for information and trial dates have gone unanswered, but embassy officials are in daily contact and they are en route to the province where Mr Celil is being held to deal directly with court officials and secure access to court proceedings," she said.

Mr Celil was an imam who left China in the 1990s. He arrived in Canada in 2001 as a refugee and was given Canadian citizenship. This is not recognized by China.

CHINA'S UIGHURS
Ethnically Turkic Muslims, mainly in Xinjiang
Made bid for independent state in 1940s
Sporadic violence in Xinjiang since 1991
Uighurs worried about Chinese immigration and erosion of traditional culture

He travelled to Uzbekistan last year, where he was arrested and then extradited to China on terrorism charges in March 2006.

His wife Kamila Telendibaeva held a news conference in December about her husband's plight.

"It's very sad. I need to get some information about my husband," she told reporters.

Amnesty International says Mr Celil is one of thousands of Uighurs being wrongly prosecuted by China.

Xinjiang, home to the Uighurs and other minorities, has long desired autonomy from Beijing, which regards the province as a home to terrorists.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

China says agreement with Canada doesn't apply to Celil case



Audra Ang, Canadian Press

Published: Thursday, February 08, 2007

BEIJING - The case of a Canadian activist jailed for alleged terrorist links will be handled according to Chinese law and is not subject to consular agreements, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday.

Huseyin Celil made a court appearance last week in Urumqi, the capital of China's western Xinjiang region, without the presence of a Canadian diplomat - a violation of his rights as a Canadian citizen. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was reportedly demanding an explanation for what happened.

But China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Celil was a Chinese citizen and that "a consular agreement between China and Canada does not apply in this case."

Jiang would not confirm the report and telephones at the Urumqi Intermediate People's Court rang unanswered on Thursday. The Canadian Embassy in Beijing said it had no immediate comment.

Celil, a member of the Uighur minority group in Xinjiang, was born and raised in China. He became wanted in the country for his involvement in a campaign for the rights of his people. He was arrested in China and tortured, but escaped from prison in 2000 and fled to Uzbekistan and Turkey before reaching Canada, where he was given citizenship.

Celil's case has been a point of contention between the two sides.

China does not recognize his Canadian citizenship and Ottawa has been aggressively lobbying for his release - a move that has angered Chinese officials, as did Canada's granting of honorary citizenship to the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.

The charges against Celil are murky. His family says he is being persecuted because he is a Muslim and a political dissident.

Chinese authorities have long maintained that militants among the Uighurs - Turkic-speaking Muslims - are leading a violent Islamic separatist movement in the region and are seeking to set up an independent state of "East Turkistan."

The separatist movement gained momentum following the dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the establishment of several independent and largely Muslim nations in the neighbouring region.

"He's a member of the East Turkistan Movement. He's a criminal," Jiang said during a regular briefing. "The relevant Chinese authorities are dealing with this issue in accordance with law."

© The Canadian Press 2007

China says consular agreement with Canada doesn't apply to Huseyin Celil case


Published: Thursday, February 8, 2007 | 5:32 AM ET

BEIJING (AP) - The case of a Canadian activist jailed for alleged terrorist links will be handled according to Chinese law and is not subject to consular agreements, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday.

Huseyin Celil made a court appearance last week in Urumqi, the capital of China's western Xinjiang region, without the presence of a Canadian diplomat - a violation of his rights as a Canadian citizen. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was reportedly demanding an explanation for what happened.

But China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Celil was a Chinese citizen and that "a consular agreement between China and Canada does not apply in this case."

Jiang would not confirm the report and telephones at the Urumqi Intermediate People's Court rang unanswered on Thursday. The Canadian Embassy in Beijing said it had no immediate comment.

Celil, a member of the Uighur minority group in Xinjiang, was born and raised in China. He became wanted in the country for his involvement in a campaign for the rights of his people. He was arrested in China and tortured, but escaped from prison in 2000 and fled to Uzbekistan and Turkey before reaching Canada, where he was given citizenship.

Celil's case has been a point of contention between the two sides.

China does not recognize his Canadian citizenship and Ottawa has been aggressively lobbying for his release - a move that has angered Chinese officials, as did Canada's granting of honorary citizenship to the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.

The charges against Celil are murky. His family says he is being persecuted because he is a Muslim and a political dissident.

Chinese authorities have long maintained that militants among the Uighurs - Turkic-speaking Muslims - are leading a violent Islamic separatist movement in the region and are seeking to set up an independent state of "East Turkistan."

The separatist movement gained momentum following the dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the establishment of several independent and largely Muslim nations in the neighbouring region.

"He's a member of the East Turkistan Movement. He's a criminal," Jiang said during a regular briefing. "The relevant Chinese authorities are dealing with this issue in accordance with law."