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China: Release Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil

    Friday, March 20, 2015 - 00:00

    Huseyin Celil (also known as Husein Dzhelil or Huseyincan Celil) is a member of China's Uighur minority and a human rights activist.

    In the 1990s, he suffered persecution and detention in China for his work advocating for the religious and political rights of the Uighur people.

    He left China and eventually made his way to Turkey, where he was recognized as a refugee by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Mr. Celil was resettled to Canada in 2001 and became a Canadian citizen in November 2005.

    In March 2006, while he was visiting his wife's parents in Uzbekistan, Mr. Celil was arrested at the request of Chinese police. He was extradited to China to face trial, and held in secrecy without access to a lawyer, his family, or Canadian officials. He was subjected to threats that he would be 'disappeared' or 'buried alive' unless he signed a confession. China refused to recognize Mr. Celil's status as a Canadian citizen, and Canadian officials were not allowed to attend his trial.

    Mr. Celil was sentenced to life imprisonment in China after an unfair trial. His prison sentence was reduced to 20 years in February 2016.  He remains in prison despite the attempts at intervention by the Canadian government.

    Take Action

    Sign an on line petition and learn more about Huseyin and his family in Canada

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    Write a polite letter to the Chinese authorities. Ask that they:

    • Release Huseyin Celil immeidately, as his original trial was not fair and he has not had access to a fair retrial.
    • Until his release, guarantee that Huseyin Celil will not be mistreated or tortured.
    • Until his release ensure that he receives adequate exercise, food, and prompt medical attention for any health problems he may have.
    • Until his release grant Mr. Celil visits from his family in China as often as they want, and full access to Canadian consular officials, as is his right as a Canadian citizen.

    Address Your Messages to:

    Premier of the People’s Republic of China
    Li Keqiang Guojia Zongli
    The State Council General Office
    2 Fuyoujie, Xichengqu,
    Beijingshi 100017,
    People's Republic of China
    Fax: +011 86 10 6596 1109 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    Salutation: Your Excellency

    With Copies To:

    Director of Department of Justice
    Abuliz Hosshur Tingzhang
    Xinjian Weiwuer Zizhiqu Sifating
    27 Renminlu
    Wulumuqisi 830002
    Xinjiang Weiweur Zizhiqu
    People’s Republic of China
    Fax: +86 991 2311590

    Salutation: Dear Director


    His Excellency Zhaohui Luo
    Ambassador for the People's Republic of China
    515 St. Patrick Street
    Ottawa Ontario 
    K1N 5H3
    Fax: (613) 789-1911

    You may also write Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    Ask that Canada do all it can to persuade the Chinese government to address Mr. Celil’s case. Thank the government for repeatedly raising this case with the Chinese authorities and ask that they redouble their efforts.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
    House of Commons
    Parliament Hill
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A2

    More Background

    The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) represents almost 17% of the territory of the Republic of China (PRC) and has common borders with Mongolia, the Russian Federation, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The region or parts of it have in the past been referred to by various names, including Uighuristan and Eastern Turkestan. It was given the Chinese name "Xinjiang" - which literally means "new frontier" or "new dominion" - in the late 19thcentury when it was incorporated into the Chinese Empire.

    The indigenous peoples of the XUAR are Turkic people who are predominantly Muslim. They include Uighurs, Kazaks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Tatars and other groups officially classified as "national minorities" of the PRC, including the Huis who are ethnic Chinese Muslims. The Uighurs are the largest indigenous group.

    In the XUAR as in the rest of the PRC, all major policy decisions are taken by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and almost all senior posts in the regional and local CCP committees are held by ethnic Chinese (or Han). The region is rich in natural resources and has been an important target for population resettlement from inland China since 1949.

    With the massive influx of Han Chinese in the XUAR since 1949, the indigenous population has felt increasingly marginalised in what they regard as their ancestral land. Aspirations towards independence have their roots in both the distant past and recent history.

    The emergence of independent Central Asian states with the breakup of the Soviet Union, together with the rise of Islamic movements and protracted conflicts in other neighbouring countries heightened the Chinese authorities’ fears of organised political opposition in the XUAR. Since the late 1980s, government policies and other factors have generated growing ethnic discontent in the XUAR. Gross violations of human rights are being perpetrated in the region. The main victims of these violations are the Uighurs.

    A growing number of violent incidents have been reported in the region. They include violent clashes between small groups of Uighurs and the security forces, as well as attacks against government officials and bombings by underground opposition groups.
    The government has blamed the unrest and violence on a "small number" of "separatists", "terrorists" and "religious extremists" who are accused of having links with "foreign hostile forces" whose aim is to "split the motherland". The government’s response has been harsh repression. The government has launched an extensive campaign against "ethnic separatists", imposing new restrictions on religious and cultural rights and resorting increasingly to executions, show trials and arbitrary detention to silence real and suspected opponents.

    The official reports about "separatists and terrorists" obscure a more complex reality in which many people who are not involved in violence have become the victims of human rights violations. Over the years, attempts by Uighurs to air their views or grievances and peacefully exercise their most fundamental human rights have been met with repression. The denial of legitimate channels for expressing grievances and discontent has led to outbursts of violence, including by people who are not involved in political opposition activities.

    The Chinese government has used economic and diplomatic pressure on other countries, including Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand, to forcibly expel or hand over more than a dozen Uighurs to the Chinese authorities. Uighurs forcibly returned to China are at high risk of torture, arbitrary detention and unfair trials, and are often held incommunicado.