Canadian MPs should start a letter campaign to pressure China into freeing a Canadian citizen jailed there since June, says a human-rights activist who is working for his release.
Rabiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, said yesterday a petition signed by 72 members of the U.S. Congress was successful in urging the release of her two children from a Chinese jail in October.
A similar strategy could help reunite Huseyin Celil with his family in Hamilton, Ms. Kadeer told a parliamentary subcommittee.
"Demanding the Chinese government to release him immediately and unconditionally is critical," said Ms. Kadeer, speaking through a translator.
"Otherwise, the Chinese can do anything to him in prison, even torture him to death," she continued.
The head of the subcommittee, Conservative MP Jason Kenney, said he would study her recommendation.
During her address, Ms. Kadeer portrayed Mr. Celil's ordeal as part of a continuing campaign by Chinese authorities to crush the bid for self-determination of the Uyghur people, China's Muslim minority group.
Mr. Celil fled China in the 1990s, after he was sentenced to death in absentia for founding a separatist political party and other alleged subversive political activity.
He settled in Canada, and became known as an imam at a Hamilton mosque.
He was arrested while visiting relatives in Uzbekistan this spring and handed over in June to Chinese authorities, who have since refused him access to consular services.
Nothing short of full-out international pressure will secure his release, Ms. Kadeer said, praising the Conservative government's hard-line stand on China's human-rights record.
Ms. Kadeer's comments were echoed by Mohamed Tohti, president of the Uyghur Canadian Association.
He told the subcommittee that Canada ought to reform a yearly human-rights dialogue with China.
The meeting between senior bureaucrats on both sides is a "waste of time," because recommendations from Canadian officials are largely ignored by their Chinese counterparts, Mr. Tohti told the committee.
"The Chinese foreign policy is based upon one theory: Cut out the head of the sheep and sell out the meat of the dog," he went on to add.
Mr. Tohti accused the Chinese government of duplicity and deceit.
So far, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has shown no sign of wanting to carry through with the yearly event.