Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Prisoner in China Has Been Re-Educated, Sentence Cut: Party Official

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Prisoner in China Has Been Re-Educated, Sentence Cut: Party Official

Article excerpt

Canadian in China re-educated: party official

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OTTAWA - A Canadian imprisoned in China for more than a decade had his life sentenced reduced because he took part in a re-education program, a top Chinese Communist party official said Tuesday.

Huseyin Celil, of southern Ontario, received a life sentence in 2007 for terrorism-related charges after a widely criticized trial that has strained Sino-Canadian relations over the course of two Conservative and Liberal governments.

Celil was an advocate for China's persecuted Uighur community who fled to Canada in 2000 and later became a citizen.

He was arrested in Uzbekistan in 2006 on a trip to visit his wife's relatives and was sent to China, where he was convicted and sentenced a year later.

Last year, the sentences given to Celil and 10 other Uighurs were reduced but the Chinese government didn't specify by how much.

Zuo Feng, a visiting Communist party official, said Celil's life sentence had been reduced to 18 years after he took part in a re-education program.

"During his journey in prison he has participated in a lot of speaking and used his own case as educational material and talked to more than 200,000 people," Zuo said through a translator.

"So because of his activities, his sentence has been reduced to 18 years.

"Also he has visiting privileges from his family."

Chris MacLeod, the lawyer for Celil's family, said there is no way he would recommend Celil's wife travel to China to visit her husband, even though she was never a Chinese citizen. He said such a visit could only be part of "an official invitation sanctioned by both governments."

Celil has been denied visits by Canadian consular officials for the last 11 years, he said.

Zuo was part of a delegation of Chinese government officials that had come to Canada to discuss economic, social and cultural developments in the country's westernmost Xinjiang region at a roundtable discussion with a select group of journalists.

That includes China's massive "One Belt, One Road" project that aims to connect the country to many parts of Asia, Europe and Africa by way of ports, rail lines and roads.

But the region has been the scene of a Uighur insurgency that has claimed hundreds of lives in recent years and sparked a hard crackdown by Beijing. A 2014 attack in a public market that killed 31 people was branded as a terrorist attack by Beijing. …

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