Apr 03, 2007

East Turkestan: Detained Activist Seeks Justice

Protests mark the one-year detention of Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur arrested while visiting family in Uzbekistan, as Chinese officials refuse to permit Red Cross or Canadian consular to access him.

Below is an excerpt from an article written by Sharon Boase published by The Hamilton Spectator:

Standing in the chilly rain, Kamila Telendibaeva vows through chattering teeth that she'll fight to free her husband from a Chinese prison until he is returned to her and their four children in Burlington.

"I will never, ever, ever give up," Telendibaeva said yesterday during a protest rally to mark the one-year anniversary of Huseyin Celil's detention in China on terrorism-related charges.

"I want justice and I will fight till he comes home to Canada. Because he's a Canadian citizen, and not Chinese, I have hope."

Some 50 supporters from Burlington, Hamilton, Toronto and from as far away as Montreal joined Telendibaeva on a downtown sidewalk in front of the Chinese Consulate waving placards and chanting their support.

Since he was arrested in Uzbekistan during a visit with Telendibaeva's family in March 2006, Celil has turned 38 and Telendibaeva has given birth to their fourth son. Celil has never seen the seven-month-old infant.

Last June, Celil was handed over by Uzbek authorities to neighbouring China who claim Celil participated in violent separatist activities.

Celil is a member of the Uyghur minority, a Turkish-speaking Muslim group struggling for religious freedom in western China.

Although granted citizenship after arriving here as a refugee in 2001, China is refusing to recognize Celil's Canadian citizenship. […] 

"He was in Canada in 2002," said Mehmet Tohti, president of the Uyghur Canadian Association. "And the Chinese constitution states that any citizen who acquires citizenship in another country, loses his Chinese citizenship automatically."

Kayum Masimov, co-ordinator of the Uyghur Canadian Association, praised the efforts of Prime Minister Stephen Harper who raised Celil's case with Chinese President Hu Jintao during a meeting last November. But Masimov also expressed frustration over the apparent kid-glove approach Canada has always taken to its behemoth trading partner.

"There's a $25-billion trade deficit between us. China needs Canada more than we need China," Masimov said. "And we shouldn't sell moral principles for an economic relationship."

Within the next week or two, China should be announcing the verdict of a trial held earlier this year or a date for a second trial, Tohti said.

Chinese officials will not permit Canada consular access to Celil nor will they permit visits by his family or the Red Cross.