September 2, 2006
TORONTO - The Muslim Canadian Congress has called on Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay to pressure the Chinese government for access to Huseyincan Celil, a Canadian citizen, currently being held illegally in China , where he faces a possible death sentence.
Mr. Huseyincan Celil of Burlington was admitted to Canada as a political refugee after escaping a Chinese prison. His crime was to form a political party and argue for the democratic and human rights of an oppressed minority group of Muslims in the western part of China , not far from Tibet . Canada rightly saw that such political activity is no crime, rather an acknowledged human right.
The extent of Mr. Celil's political activity was to represent the Uyghur peoples in the land they have lived for 4000 years. Like the Tibetans, the Uyghur are an oppressed minority group,facing economic, political, religious and cultural suppression. They are treated like strangers in their own lands, their language is banned in schools and their mosques are summarily closed. They practice a moderate form of Sufi Islam and largely lead secular lives.
But, according to the Uyghur Human Rights Project and supported by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, they are the only minority population facing executions for expressing their political and religious freedoms. The Chinese government uses them for slave labour and compulsory unpaid labour on infrastructure projects in the region. The UN High Commissioner has recently expressed her concern over the treatment of the Uyghur people by the Chinese government.
After fleeing China , Mr. Celil was tried in absentia for his democratizing efforts and given the death penalty.
Mr. Celil is undergoing a trial that is not open to the public and he has not been given adequate legal representation. His lawyer in Canada has not been given a response from the government of China when requesting to speak to him. Even the government of Canada does not know his location or status.
Mr. Celil has been denied Canadian consular access, violating international law, the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It has been four months since Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay assured his wife that the government of Canada would take action. Since then, Peter McKay has been brushed off by Chinese government officials and has garnered no information about this desperate case.
According to Professor Burton of Brock University, the Chinese authorities use unproven charges of anti-government activities and terrorism as an excuse to crack down on the political rights of minority groups, and that in the Chinese system once a person comes up for trial, a guilty verdict is all but guaranteed, "the [only] question is what is the nature of the punishment will be". We know that the Chinese government has already declared a punishment of the death penalty in an earlier trial in which Mr. Celil was denied a defence.
The MCC supports the Uyghur Canadian Association in arguing that Mr. Celil's role in organizing the Uyghur people to demand their rights through non-violent means is protected by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
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