OTTAWA -- Canadian officials called the Chinese ambassador yesterday to ask that Beijing tell Huseyin Celil's family where the imprisoned Canadian is being held, the Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed.
According to a prepared statement read to The Globe and Mail by a Foreign Affairs spokesman, Chinese Ambassador Lu Shumin was called into the department yesterday to discuss Mr. Celil's situation, which has turned even bleaker in the past few months.
The ambassador was also asked to allow Mr. Celil's family to visit him wherever he is being held, "if only on humanitarian grounds."
Those may well be the only grounds on which Ottawa can appeal, given that Beijing has always refused to recognize any rights he has as a Canadian citizen.
It was revealed this week that Mr. Celil - who was arrested in Uzbekistan two years ago, transferred to China, accused of being a terrorist and sentenced to life in prison - has been moved from the Northwest China prison where he was serving his sentence.
Chinese authorities, who consider Mr. Celil Chinese, have refused to tell his family or Canadian officials where he is.
According to the Foreign Affairs spokesman, officials with the Canadian embassy will soon make the same plea in Beijing.
However, Chinese officials recently expressed displeasure with Ottawa's position on the uprising and repression of protesters in Tibet. With the Olympics just a few months away, the Tibet protests have put Chinese human rights in the spotlight.
The Conservative government has repeatedly acted on behalf of Mr. Celil, a member of the Muslim Uyghur minority in China, since his arrest. But the results have been minimal: In violation of international agreements, Beijing has denied Canadian officials access to Mr. Celil.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister's office called Chris MacLeod, Mr. Celil's Canadian lawyer, to discuss the case. Mr. MacLeod said officials seemed engaged in the issue, and listened to his thoughts on what should be done next.