China: Blame Canada?

Google seizes up before any results appear in a search for ‘Celil,’ ‘Canada’ (in Chinese) and ‘2007,’ fitting given that a proxified search turns up no Chinese language media reports from websites that can be readily viewed within China. It's a different story, as usual, for a Google search which includes the word blog. The controversy surrounding the identity and fate of Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil, originally from China's largely muslim northwest, was revived this past week when he was sentenced to life in Chinese prison.

Celil's previous stint in Chinese prison ended in 2000 when he broke out and fled West, soon landing in Canada where he went on to gain citizenship. Two questions around which the controversy revolves: does the Canadian government not worry about granting citizenship to Chinese criminals, or is the Chinese government making these charges up?

Huseyin Celil

Speaking strictly by percentage, rabid nationalistic discourse tends to dominate online discussion in China, but the reason so little of this is reflected here at Global Voices Online is that one hopes to engage in balanced conversation, but in the Celil incident, this week at least, all the bloggage this blogger was able to find leans heavily in the Chinese government's favor. For example, random comments on blogs found in the first two pages of results in the search described above:

From the military bbs at, netizen Son of the South on April 20:


The Canadian government's giving of citizenship to a criminal is a kind of criminal behavior in itself. Before the Chinese government had even made a ruling, the Canadian government had already started giving.

From the Dragon's Dream Sina blog whose readership jumped to over 1,700 with his post on the affair, netizen East China Sea Scholar on April 21:

不枪毙 感觉国家对他太仁慈了…这样的还留着干吗?!
加拿大 混蛋国家 赖昌星为什么不引渡 .实际还不是为了带去的 600多亿 不给中国 还有脸来说话 …加拿大 应该被中国人鄙视的国家.最好让他闭嘴.

Traitors, we must be steadfast in eliminating them.
If they don't shoot him, it's because the state's being too merciful…and what will be left?!
Canada, bastard country, why don't they extradite Lai Changxing? Even if hadn't taken off with sixty billion RMB they should still give him back…and they still dare speak to us…Canada should be a country Chinese people despise…at best make it shut up.

From the military affairs blog at, which had sixteen pages of comments, netizen Bright Point of the Sun on April 22:


Canada, go die! You're not qualified to tell China what do to. Your Prime Minister is a piece of trash.

MSN Spaces blogger and Chinese law student WY Aaron, currently studying in the United States, took the time to put more substance behind a somewhat similar argument in his postUtterly Shameless‘:


One can be shameless, but not to this extent!


So cold I awoke at midnight, thinking of all the noise being made between China and Canada over the Celil Huseiyn case, tossing and turning. At five in the morning (6pm Beijing time) I got up, ate an apple, and went online to read up on the case.
As a practicing lawyer, I'm used to hearing completely different versions of a story from each side, and am not quick to believe one side's statements over the other. So, when I got up today, first I went over some of the earlier information sources, and then thoroughly familiarized myself with the the stances taken by the two countries’ governments, China and Canada, and especially the information put up on the website set up by the accused's family (hereby referred to as “the Celil site”). After having read all this, I can say I'm brimming with fury as I write this blog entry.

被告玉山江,英文名Huseyin Celil, 英文名中译侯赛因塞利尔,生于中国新疆,维吾尔族人。自称生于东突厥斯坦,系突厥族人,为东突厥斯坦伊斯兰运动成员。东突厥斯坦伊斯兰运动,即”东突”,为联合国正式认定的恐怖主义组织。”东突”谋求分离新疆,在”塞利尔网站”上毫不掩饰。中国政府称”东突”与”基地”组织有千丝万缕的联系,在新疆和内地制造了众多爆炸事件和流血冲突,故依照中国国内法,对其打击不遗余力。

Summing up all the various information, particularly the facts the Cecil site takes the initiative to admit, a rough outline to this case goes as such:
The accused, Huseyin Celil, was born in Xinjiang, China, and belongs to the Uighur racial minority, but declares himself as having been born in East Turkestan, belonging to the East Turkic people, and as a member of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, is considered by the United Nations as a terrorist organizaion. The ETIM strives for Xingjiang separation, as the Celil site makes no effort to hide. The Chinese government maintains that the ETIM and Al Qaeda organizations are inextricably connected and have both in Xinjiang and further inland created numerous explosions and bloody conflicts; thus, according to mainland Chinese law, no effort is being spared to strike down the ETIM.

加拿大政府以被告为加拿大公民为由,要求为其提供领事保护。中国不承认被告的加拿大国籍,严词拒绝。加拿大政府总理说,他的政府相信,没有明确的证据证明,作为少数民族权利的主张者,被告犯有或参与任何被指控的罪行。(Harper said his government believes there's no clear evidence that Celil, a minority rights activist, has committed any crimes or participated in alleged terrorism.)加拿大政府以中国政府侵害人权等理由,把”人权”、”自由”的口号喊得整天响,在外交层面对中国政府施加种种压力。

The accused was once apprehended by the Chinese government, but escaped from prison in 2000. The Chinese government immediately issued a red alert warrant through INTERPOL, effective worldwide. While the accused was listed as wanted, he fled to Canada. In 2001, the Canadian government accepted him as a refugee, granting him citizenship in 2005. After gaining Canadian citizenship, the accused had nothing left to fear, and in March, 2006, while in Uzbekistan on a Canadian passport, was arrested by local police on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities and extradited to China. The case is currently being heard in a court in Xinjiang.
On the grounds of seeing the accused as a Canadian citizen, the Canadian government requested to provide him with consular protection. As China does not recognize dual nationality, the request was sternly rejected. The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government believes there to be no clear evidence that Celil, a minority rights activist, had committed any crimes or participated in alleged terrorism
The Canadian government, seeing the Chinese government as violating human rights, wailed slogans of ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom’ until the sky shook, exerting various pressures on the Chinese government at the diplomatic level.
Now, the Canadian side's strongest reasoning is that Chinese nationality law doesn't recognize dual citizenship, that after the accused gained Canadian citizenship he automatically renounced his Chinese citizenship and for this reason, the Chinese side has no jurisdiction in this case.


In accordance with Chinese law…territorial jurisdiction can be applied to foreigners and stateless persons who break the law within China. For crimes committed outside China against the Chinese state or Chinese citizens, protective jurisdiction can be applied. For crimes committed against international conventions and treaty provisions, universal jurisdiction can be applied, in that any country may have jurisdiction.


The contention at the legal level might be too technical, so let's put that aside for a moment. Let's consider this from a different position: say bin Laden had fled to some country in the middle east, Iran, for example. Now the Iranian government accepts him as a refugee, offers him political asylum, even grants him citizenship. Say then that Mr. Laden is now a full-fledged Iranian citizen and that their government believes there to be no evidence proving his participation in terrorist activities, that no countries on earth should even dream about ever touching him again! How would the Western world, including Canada, respond? I bet you America would dispatch troops like hell, destroying Iran ten times over! And Canada? You think they'd so much as make half a fart about it?


The Canadian Prime Minister says his government “believes” there to be no evidence proving the accused's guilt, so it seems this makes everything they say and do excusable. What a joke! Since you haven't seen the evidence, what exactly are you “believing”? Putting it another way, the World Trade Centers were blown up by bin Laden, but where's the proof? Iraq has large-scale deadly weapons, but where's the proof? I'm even willing to bet that the evidence of the accused's manufacturing of terrorist cases inside China amounts to more than the evidence implicating bin Laden and Saddam put together! Now the whole world knows that it was bin Laden's Al Qaeda behind the World Trade Center in New York, and Saddam has been done in by America: why didn't Canada object? Why didn't Canada take the two of them in as refugees, as citizens, and then provide them with political asylum, giving them passports, letting them go on spreading rumors? One can be shameless, but not to this extent!

For a balanced overview of the development of the dispute between the Chinese and Canadian governments, journalist-blogger Susanna Ng in Vancouver, Canada has been tracking the story on her Chinese in Vancouver blog, and her most recent post on the subject, dated April 21, ‘Embarrassing Canadian foreign policy,’ looks at the Canadian government and particularly its current leader's response to the Celil incident in comparison with that of another Canadian citizen also recently in diplomatic hot water, which reads:

This Egyptian case has so much in common with Celil:

* both are alleged of harming their home countries’ security and integrity
* Israel is the Harperites’ good friend whom should be supported “unconditionally”; and Harper's China policy might have been dictated by people who lobby for an independent Tibet (ironically, the Dalai Lama has announced that he's not interested in an independent Tibet any more)
* both men say they're innocent and are tortured into confessions; Canada has no way to prove it but jump to hoist the human rights flag
* Arab countries do not like to be criticized in public
* China is more ready to cooperate if talks are behind the scene


  • […] John Kennedy at Global Voices Online translates and analyzes Chinese-language blog chatter on jailed Uyghur Huseyin Celil of Canada. Worth a look! […]

  • John, thanks for this post. This was a topic of minor interest in the -stanosphere back when he was picked up in Uzbekistan. In my opinion, the arrest and deportation is a sign of just how eager Central Asian governments are to cooperate in China’s persecution of Uyghurs. I wish I could find some opinions on the case on Central Asian blogs.

  • bingster

    Many Chinese are fed up with Canada being the safe heaven for criminals of all kind escaping China’s justice. Many are smugglers and corrupted former officials who, incidentally, brought with them boat loads of money with them when holing up in Canada. China has been very bothered by this. If you know the case of the smuggler Lai Chang Xing, you will know what I am talking about. The Canada government has been steadfastly dragging its feet on deporting criminals, on the pretense of human rights (*yawn*).

    I suspect China is using Cecil to send to strong message to the Canada government, and more importantly, to any future criminals who think getting Canadian passport means a getting out jail free card.

    There will be no deal on Cecil. You might as well stick a fork in him, he’s done.

  • Hilary

    Let’s get one thing clear: separatism is not the same thing as terrorism. If the PRC is so concerned about Uyghur “terrorism”, it should allow the Uyghurs equal opportunity at employment rather than favoring us Han Chinese, and cease its religious, cultural and linguistic repression. Torture and targeting of civilians (by anybody) is also unacceptable. Many PRC policies are exacerbating problems in Xinjiang. I love China very much, it is my ancestral homeland. I hope one day the government will wake up and treat everyone within China with equal respect.

  • bingster


    Pardon my french but you don’t know crap about China, do you? don’t you speech Chinese and you don’t have any Chinese friends who are from China, right?

    “it should allow the Uyghurs equal opportunity at employment”

    You are right Uyghurs don’t have equal opportunity, in fact they have more opportunities than average Han. They get preferential treatment with it comes to college admission, they are EXEMPT from “one child” policy, they are guaranteed quota in Xinjiang govt positioned.

  • AReader

    At least the first two citations are mistranlated. You may want to check your translations again.

  • Thanks for the heads up, AReader. I’ve made translation mistakes before, but I don’t see any now in the first two parts. Could you do everyone a favor and point them out?


    According to Canadian Law, “a foreign national is inadmissible on security grounds being a danger to the security of Canada….”

    A refugee claim is ineligible to be referred to the Refugee Protection Division if “the claimant has been determined to be inadmissible on grounds of security…..serious criminality or organized criminality…..”

    Huseyin Celil is a member of the East Trukistan Movement, which is a terrorist organization defined by the United Nations. Interpol has a worldwide arrest warrant on him before he turned to Canada because he is suspected of being involved in a series of violent terrorist activities. There were enought evidences to show that it is a danger to the security of granting a refugee status and Citizenship to Celil. Contrarily,a inadmissibility order should be placed.

    So, the government decision is questionable.

  • Rod


    Perhaps the claim that Uyghurs seem to have ‘more opportunities’ than the average Han Chinese is offset by the fact that the central government has other policies of ensuring and promoting Han dominance in the Xinjiang region .

    Although I have my doubts about the nature of the policies you mentioned that ethnic Chinese Uyghurs are exempt from, I have no desire to argue the pros and cons of any specific policies here, but I am aware that there are usually positives and negatives.

    Also, please refrain from making assumptions about other commenters such as Hilary. (And in case you’re wondering, I speak Mandarin-Chinese and I have Chinese friends from China.)

  • warner pinetree

    Withut reference to this particular case; an interesting wider but related point would be when does a freedom fighter become a terrorist? For instance the ANC in S. Africa (which was given the support of the Chinese regime) was considered a terrorist organisation by its own govt. and many others. Whilst I myself would not condone the use of violence for political ends (unlike revolutionary communists!) I can see that where an ethnic/religious/political minority has no other means of redress or true representation ANY act which it takes would be considered as ‘terrorism’ by the authorities.

    Congratulations to Canada for (once again)holding to legal and moral principles in the face of immense pressure unlike their American cousins who sold out for Chinese support in their own ‘war on terror’.

    When a country (like the PRC) is not governed by law and where there is no seperation between the judiciary and an unelected ruling elite then any reasonable country should refuse to extradite.

    If this man is a terrorist then the population of China can rest asssured that he will not be returning to the motherland.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.