Canada not protecting its own
Husseyin Celil is being treated as a terrorist in China but Stephen Harper doesn't seem to care
By PETER WORTHINGTON
The CBC's China correspondent has finally discovered Husseyin Celil, the 37-year-old Canadian citizen and father of six who was sentenced to 15 years in a Chinese prison for alleged terrorism.
What's disquieting about this case is that Celil, who came to Canada in 2001 after escaping from China, was virtually kidnapped while visiting his wife's relatives in Uzbekistan last March, and turned over to the Chinese who promptly jailed him.
Canada showed awesome lack of interest in the case -- perhaps because anyone accused of "terrorism" is automatically suspect and presumed guilty. Look at unfortunate Maher Arar, whom Canada cheerfully accepted being sent to Syria as a terror suspect until it turned out he was guilty of nothing.
The government has apologized to Arar and blamed the Mounties. Some think Arar should get the Order of Canada for the mistake. If that doesn't reek of guilt expediency, nothing does.
The manner in which Celil was arrested and shipped to China is as outrageous as Canada's lack of concern. Celil is no more a "terrorist" than others who seek to escape tyranny.
To its credit (better late than never), the CBC's Anthony Germain traveled to Xinjiang province in northeast China to chat with Celil's 80-year-old mother, brother and sister. Their grief and anger is at China, not Canada, whom they hope will do something. Fat chance.
The response of Harper's Parliamentary Secretary Jason Kenney, a pretty straight shooter, is that Celil's is a "complicated case."
Horsefeathers! It's alarmingly simple.
Celil is a Uighur -- the dominant ethnic and cultural group in Xinjiang which used to be the East Turkistan and is both the largest Chinese province, and the only one where ethnic Chinese are outnumbered.
Because Uighurs are Muslim, yearn for freedom and democracy -- yes, democracy of the sort we in the West profess to defend -- the Chinese view them as "terrorists."
Ever since 9/11, any who struggle for identity and independence in China are branded "terrorists" -- including Tibetans. This seems to dissuade Canada from anything more than token support for Celil.
Research by Foreign Minister Peter MacKay's bureaucrats would quickly establish that Uighurs are not terrorists -- despite a few being caught in the net at Guantanamo, most of them since released as victims of Pakistani bounty hunters.
While Canada doesn't have much leverage with the Chinese, one thing certain is that "quiet diplomacy" is not the way to go. That's what the damned Liberals specialized in when they ran Ottawa, and their record of rescuing Canadians in trouble was abysmal.
Harper could at least raise hell in front of microphones, at the UN, with trade delegations and Chinese businessmen. Alert Canadians and the world.
Celil is a Muslim Imam, with a wife in Burlington.
His mosque seems distinctly un-militant -- at least according to Mehmet Tohti president of the Uighur Canadian Association and Alim Seytoff of the Uighur American Association which is aggressively pro-American.
At least the government should drop its dual citizenship policy with tyrannies -- then there'd be no doubt that Husseyin Celil is Canadian and not Chinese chattel. As it is, the Harper government seems to have more trust in Beijing's justice than it does in Beijing's victims.