Vive Le Canada

Harper's Tough Talk On China Not A Surprise. He's For Morality In Foreign Affai
Date: Saturday, November 18 2006
Topic:


Walkom wonders if Celil had been sent to Gitmo what would Harper be saying about morality and I wonder where would Celil be had been sent back to Canada? No doubt in prison on a security certificate. Harper like any other amoral politician will USE anyone to get where they want to be. 4Canada

Nov. 18, 2006. 01:00 AM
THOMAS WALKOM

Morality in politics is two-edged. If enough people agree with the principled stand a politician makes, he is a hero. If they do not, he is a fool. This is the curious position in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper finds himself after his blunt (critics would say impolitic) criticisms of China for jailing a man from Burlington named Huseyincan Celil.

Celil was born and raised in the Xinjiang region of China. He's also a member of China's Uyghur minority, a Muslim Central Asian.

Friends call him a political activist. China calls him a terrorist. In the '90s, he was arrested and spent time in jail. His crime, according to his lawyer Chris MacLeod, was to illegally teach children the Uyghur language.

Using a false Turkish passport, he fled China for neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, eventually ending up in Turkey where he obtained United Nations status as a refugee.

In 2001, he came to Canada. Last year, he became a Canadian citizen. This spring, he travelled on his brand-new Canadian passport to Uzbekistan, also in Central Asia, to visit his in-laws.

There, he was arrested, on no particular charge, and extradited to China where he was sentenced to 15 years in jail on charges of murder and terrorism. His family and friends say the charges are invented.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International say Celil's experiences match those of other Uyghurs who have suffered persecution for trying to exercise basic civil rights.

As Celil languished in jail, civil libertarians lambasted the Harper government for failing to press Beijing harder for his release.

So, this week, it seems, Harper did. He told Canadian reporters travelling with him to an economic summit in Vietnam that Canada values the freedom of its citizens more than it values trade. If that led China's President Hu Jintao to snub him at the summit (which appeared to be the case at the time), he said, then so be it.

"(Canadians) don't want us to sell that out to the almighty dollar," the Prime Minister said.

At one level, Harper's interest in a Uyghur from Burlington might seem odd. To many Canadians, the Conservatives are the party of the almighty dollar.

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[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 20, 2006]

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