Passport status a mystery

MPs press to help Canadian in China
By Daniel NolanThe Hamilton Spectator(Jul 7, 2006)
A Burlington man appears to be in custody in China without his Canadian passport, raising fears China still regards him as a Chinese national and is ignoring Canadian requests to see him and check on his wellbeing.
China has still not confirmed to Canadian authorities that Huseyincan Celil, who fled China in 1994 because of his political work with the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang province, has been in their custody for the past two weeks after being extradited from Uzbekistan.
Calgary Tory MP Jason Kenny, who has taken a personal interest in the case as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary assistant, said this follows a diplomatic note, appeals from the Canadian ambassador in Beijing and appeals to the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.
Celil's wife in Burlington said that her brother in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, says Uzbeki authorities have told him Celil's Canadian passport remains in their hands, even after they handed him over to Chinese authorities at the end of June.
"When I heard that, I was really upset and angry," Celil's wife Kamila Telendibaeva said yesterday.
"It's really upsetting. They didn't give his Canadian passport when the government sent him to China. Maybe China didn't want the Canadian passport?"
She and her lawyer Chris MacLeod of Hamilton hope the government can do more to pressure China. MacLeod has appealed to Harper to send an envoy to China. Hamilton East-Stoney Creek New Democrat MP Wayne Marston, his party's human rights critic, also called on Ottawa to do more yesterday.
MacLeod is worried China's lack of response and not taking the passport indicates the father of six is viewed "as a Chinese national who left China and is now coming back to China . . . That fits the bill for China (that) this is not about a Canadian citizen."
Kyrgyzstan, a neighbour of China and Uzbekistan, accuses Celil of being behind two terrorist attacks in 2000, but his friends and family say that's impossible because he was living in Turkey as a refugee. He was sentenced to death in absentia in China for his political work, but Uzbekistan says China has told it he will not face capital punishment. Celil, who lived in Kyrgyzstan before moving to Turkey, came to Canada in 2001. Celil was detained in Uzbekistan in March while he and his wife visited family.
Kenny said Canada has asked Uzbekistan to confirm whether they transferred Celil to China without his passport. He called it a complex problem because China does not recognize dual nationalities. The Foreign Affairs website warns Chinese who have become Canadians that recognition of Canadian citizenship is not automatic.
"These are very pertinent questions," Kenny said. "There are many countries that don't recognize dual citizenship for a national, but we, of course, are treating Mr. Celil as a Canadian who deserves full consular access."
He said the government is looking at other measures to press its case with China.

Diplomacy isn't working

By Robert HowardThe Hamilton Spectator(Jul 4, 2006)
Huseyincan Celil is a Canadian citizen believed to be in a jail cell somewhere in China. It is outrageous that a foreign government will not even say whether it has a Canadian in prison.
China is not even acknowledging it has the Burlington resident. His wife isn't sure he is still alive. That's utterly unacceptable and Beijing must be informed, in the strongest possible language, that Canada will not tolerate denial of basic human rights to Canadian citizens.
China is a trading superpower, which influences how tough other governments are in confronting it on its appalling human rights record. But Ottawa must insist, inside or outside traditional diplomacy, that Canadians are treated in accordance with international standards of justice.
Citizenship doesn't provide immunity against arrest or imprisonment in another country. But it must ensure Ottawa will go to bat for its citizens -- insisting on such basic rights as competent counsel and a fair and transparent judicial process.
Celil is accused by his native China of working for a violent separatist movement in Xinjiang province. He escaped China and received refugee status and later citizenship in Canada. Sentenced to death in absentia by a Chinese court, Celil was arrested in March in neighbouring Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan says he has been sent to China. Beijing is saying nothing.
This is all-too-familiar ground for Ottawa:
* William Sampson was imprisoned without a lawyer, brutally tortured and sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia in 2001. Released in 2003.
* Canadian Zahra Kazemi died in Iran during interrogation after being arrested taking photos outside a prison. A medical witness says she was brutally tortured and raped and died of head injuries. No autopsy was ever allowed and the only person ever charged in her murder was acquitted.
* Maher Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian who was held as a terrorism suspect for a year without charges in a Syrian jail.
Diplomacy is traditionally based on notes and niceties. A rapid non-traditional response -- perhaps even a phone call from the Prime Minister's Office to one of Beijing's aging despots -- may be needed to save another Canadian from torture or death. Ottawa needs to act.

Quote of the Day

Harper gets plea to save Canadian

PM to aid detainee in China

Kyrgyzstan: human rights activists stage a picket in front of the Embassy of China

Friday , 07 July 2006
Activists of the Uigur diaspora of Kyrgyzstan and local human rights community staged a picket in front of the Embassy of China in Bishkek on July 5.Protesters' first demand concerned citizen of Canada Huseyincan Celil detained by the Uzbek authorities this March and extradited to China where he was wanted as a religious extremist [see Ferghana.Ru report on June 28]. The Uigurs and human rights activists demanded his release. They also demanded to put an end to harassment of the family of Rabija Kadyr, the head of the Uigur Association in the United States.
The demands to Chinese Chairman Hu Jintao were turned over to Embassy officials, a copy was sent to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

China’s Islamic Frontier

On June 27 the government of Uzbekistan transferred Huseyincan Celil, now a Canadian citizen, to Chinese custody to await execution. While authorities of the People’s Republic of China charge that Mr. Cecil is guilty of killing Chinese delegates in Kyrgyzstan in 2000, the evidence suggests that Cecil was in fact in Turkey at the time under the direction of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The Toronto Star noted that the man “was sentenced to death in absentia for founding a political party to work on behalf of the Uighur people in Xinjiang province.” Beijing’s insistence on the execution of a man who is likely to be purely a human rights activist is not difficult to explain, but rather illustrative of the anxiety the Chinese Communist Party maintains over the country’s Muslim west.
If China’s west is to be won, it will largely take place in the following decade. The Xinjiang Autonomous Uighur Region, located in China’s northwest, is home to approximately eight million Uighur Muslims – there are several million Hui, Kazakh, and Tajik Muslims as well – and is the likely flashpoint should any ethnic separatist movement threaten the mainland’s territorial integrity. The region’s most radical group, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), not only has ties to al-Qaeda, but is also providing the government in Beijing with a pretext for solidifying their control over the province’s Uighur population.
The vast majority of the limited debate that has occurred in the United States on this matter has mistakenly focused on the question of whether the Chinese do indeed have a terrorist problem, and in either conclusion, whether the CCP has manipulated the situation to consolidate their hold on the country’s restive population. While both issues must be taken into account when examining the situation in Xinjiang, the aspect that best encompasses the question of China’s Islamic west is the frontier factor.

The total population of Xinjiang remains relatively sparse. Of China’s 1.3 billion people, only about 20 million live in Xinjiang despite the fact that the province constitutes about one-sixth of China’s total landmass. The region’s expanding importance to China’s economy, the Islamic presence in the region, and the threat of separatist and terrorist organizations have led Beijing to conclude that the country’s northwestern frontier must be tamed.

The government’s handling of their Muslim citizens in the Chinese west has been both authoritarian and effective. Under the “Strike Hard” campaign begun in the mid-nineties, those who have studied in madrassahs abroad are monitored by Chinese authorities, and all material considered subversive is confiscated at the border from those returning from the Central Asia or the Middle East. Executions of suspected terrorists are frequent, while arrests are often made for the slightest potential infraction. Last year more than 18,000 were arrested in Xinjiang for what Beijing classifies as “endangering state security.”

As is the case with all religions in China, few decisions by Muslim leaders are made independent of CCP interference. There is one Islamic seminary in China and all imams must be graduates of this state-run institution. Imams are employees of the state and few actions are conducted without supervision by the official security apparatus or their informers. Such efforts are not limited to Chinese territory. About 350,000 Uighur immigrants live in neighboring Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and Beijing has called on these Central Asian states to maintain a firm control of these populations to ensure that none come to pose a threat to China’s hold on Xinjiang.

The People’s Republic of China is among the world’s foremost violators of human rights. This has created a dilemma for Washington in both conducting the war on terror and in its relations with Beijing. In a diplomatic row between the two countries in May, Chinese officials harshly condemned the United States’ decision to send five Chinese Muslims detained at Guantanamo Bay to Albania rather than back to their home country. Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao revealed his displeasure when he noted: “This act by the US and Albanian sides is a gross violation of international law and we are strongly opposed to this.” Pressure from Beijing was so strong not to accept these Chinese citizens that Albania was the sole country of more than twenty not to be intimated by the PRC’s demands.

In a piece in The Wall Street Journal on June 27, Uighur human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer detailed the nefarious methods used by the PRC in maintaining their uncontested authoritarian rule over Xinjiang. Ms. Kadeer was arrested in 1999 for sending newspaper clippings to the United States and planning to meet with a U.S. congressional delegation in the Xinjiang capitol of Urumqi. After the Bush administration secured her release in March 2005, a stern warning was issued. “Before I left Beijing, Chinese officials warned me that if I spoke out against the plight of the Uighurs, my children and my business would be ‘finished,” wrote Kadeer. Earlier this month Chinese authorities followed through on their word when they beat Ms. Kadeer’s children – allowing the female to call the mother during the beatings so she could hear the suffering – and latter arrested the three on charges of “plotting to split the state” and tax evasion.

While China’s leadership may falsely categorize those seeking human rights and greater autonomy as terrorists, and their methods of control fail to follow acceptable norms, it is clear that the PRC faces a real and legitimate terrorist threat. Islamists in Xinjiang maintain extensive ties to international terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda. The leading terrorist organization, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), maintains communications with jihadist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of its more experienced members fought with the mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and safe houses and cells have been uncovered everywhere from Germany to Pakistan. In fact, in late June, Chinese diplomats in Pakistan wrote the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they had information that members of ETIM were operating in Pakistan and maintain plans to kidnap them.

Not only do Xinjiang Islamists operate in a diverse variety of states, but foreign extremists have sought refuge in the radical sectors of China’s Uighur community as well. Chinese authorities have captured Taliban militants in Xinjiang, and there have been reports that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan maintains a cell in the province. It is also worth noting that outside terrorist groups come to Xinjiang not because of a perceived regional lawlessness, but because they expect to find elements in the Muslim community that will harbor them.

Extremist groups in Xinjiang also look to foreign terrorist organizations to draw inspiration for their propaganda efforts. According to Rohan Gunaratna and Kenneth George Pereire in the most recent issue of the China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, “ETIM, and associated groups, have learned from groups, such as the Chechen terrorists, to exploit Western human rights and humanitarian associations, to assist various activities.” Thus, the organization’s principle propaganda outlet is strategically based in Munich where the group hopes to capitalize on European liberalism.

On occasion ETIM has released videos that appear to emulate those produced by al-Qaeda. Footage of the airliners crashing into the World Trade Center has been celebrated in these videos and one such propaganda piece claims that the group has brought down a Chinese plane. While this claim has not been substantiated and is likely a fabrication, some analysts believe that the PRC’s efforts to contain ETIM’s profile – as well as limit the dissemination of information that could discourage human and capital investment in the region – provide for the possibility that such an event could have occurred.

The Chinese labeled ‘three evils’ of terrorism, separatism, and extremism may be a burden to the leadership in Beijing, but they also play to the CCP’s benefit. Chien-peng Chung, an Assistant Professor of Politics at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, noted in CEF Quarterly: “For all their collective malfeasance, it must be admitted that the ‘three evils’ offer rather good mass media propaganda for the PRC government to keep ethnic demands on the defensive, dismiss foreign scrutiny … and perhaps most importantly, sustain the unity of the Han Chinese ethnicity.”

The Han Chinese – the national majority constituting 92 percent of China’s population – are just beginning to settle China’s northwest in large numbers, but the demographics of Xinjiang have already greatly been altered in the last half-century. As was noted by the BBC, in 1950 Uighurs made up 94 percent of Xinjiang’s population, whereas today they are estimated to be just less than half. Nevertheless, Chinese officials maintain that they possess no plans to dilute the influence of Muslim Uighurs in the province as one official recently suggested: “There's very little difference in the ethnic balance between now and the early 1950s,” and Beijing’s encouragement of westward migration “certainly isn’t an issue of moving Han people to Xinjiang.”

Beijing’s lack of sincerity in their statements regarding the demographic implications of the Han Chinese settlement of the country’s northwest frontier is an inevitable result of the government seeking to avoid alarming Xinjiang’s Uighurs. The state has taken measures to contain any such future developments where “reactionary” elements may attract widespread support. This is largely being accomplished by Han migrations to Xinjiang. As Chien-peng Chung stated in his aforementioned work, “the government has been promoting an unstated but deliberate policy of ethnic encirclement by authorizing Han settlements in neighborhoods separate from, but close to, Uighur” communities.

The emphasis on maintaining a firm grip on the situation in Xinjiang is not only aimed at preventing a popular secessionist movement, but it also represents a concerted effort to ensure the economic stability of the region. The province of Xinjiang is becoming increasingly important to China’s economic growth, and its geographic location bordering Central Asia and Pakistan ensures the region’s vital role as a gateway for energy resources. While the Xinjiang is a significant producer of domestic coal and oil, it is also essential for the expanding quantities of oil and natural gas imported from Central Asia that must pass through the province on their way to China’s high consumption eastern cities. With Beijing’s efforts to secure energy resources across the globe, it is doubtful they will ease their grip on Xinjiang anytime soon.

China is settling its west and is likely to achieve success in bringing both economic prosperity and repression of regional autonomy to Xinjiang. Beijing and the region’s Islamic terrorists will continue to clash, and as Henry Kissinger stated during the Iran-Iraq War, it’s a shame they both can’t lose. But one thing is for certain: there will be many more Huseyincan Celil’s caught in the struggle for China’s Islamic frontier.

China: More Security for Envoys in Region

Published: July 4, 2006
Chinese officials have urged Central and South Asian countries to increase security for Chinese diplomats after the deportations of Uighurs to China from neighboring countries. Uzbekistan announced last week the deportation of Huseyincan Celil, a Uighur in exile from China. Beijing says he is a member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which it calls a terrorist group. Mr. Celil was arrested in Uzbekistan in March and faces the death penalty if put on trial in China. In May, Kazakhstan deported two Uighurs to China to face charges of terrorism and sedition. Uighurs, who are Muslim, are half the population of Xinjiang Province, on the border with Kazakhstan.

Update on Uyghur in Uzbekistan, Husein Dzhelil or Celil

I received this from Canada's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in response to my letter about Husein Celil. This is the first time I have received a response from authorities when I've written about a prisoner of conscience. Of course the difference here is that Canada is not the perpetrator in this case, but rather trying to free Husein Celil. Still, I am impressed that Canada took the time to respond to me. Here you can read about Husein Celil and email/mail your own letters on his behalf, to Canada (where he is a citizen) and Uzbekistan (where he is being held and likely to be extradited to China for execution).
I would be curious to hear whether other activists have received responses from authorities concerning any human rights concerns.
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G2

May 15, 2006

Ms. Celia Llopis-Jepsen

Dear Ms. Llopis-Jepsen:

This is in response to your email of April 26, 2006, in which you
express concerns regarding the detention of Mr. Huseyincan Celil, in Uzbekistan.

I wish to assure you that officials of Foreign Affairs Canada in
Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in Moscow, Russia, and in Ottawa, are aware of Mr. Celil's case and have been working tirelessly towards a resolution. Officials are actively continuing their diplomatic efforts and are in regular communication with Mr. Celil's family.

The Consular Affairs Bureau is mandated by the Privacy Act, which
prohibits the disclosure of personal information by a government department or agency unless the consent of the individual(s) who are the subject of the information has been obtained. Any personal information cannot be disclosed to unauthorized parties without the explicit consent of the individual(s) concerned.

As you can appreciate, the Canadian government has a legal obligation to safeguard the privacy of Canadian citizens. We would like to stress, however, that the Government of Canada is pursuing this matter very seriously in order to bring an end to Mr. Celil's detention in Uzbekistan.

Thank you for writing and taking the time to express your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Janice Hayes
Ministerial Correspondence Division