Federal officials say that the imprisonment of human-rights activist Huseyin Celil in China will force Canada to review a consular agreement that may have contained a gaping loophole when it was signed eight years ago.

The agreement is intended to facilitate the travel of people who simultaneously claim Canadian and Chinese nationality.

“However, this does not imply that the People’s Republic of China recognizes dual nationality,” the document says.

Mr. Celil, who was born in China, is a political refugee. He became a Canadian citizen two years ago. He was travelling in Uzbekistan last year when he was arrested on a Chinese police warrant and extradited to China on terrorism charges.

Ottawa protested against his sentencing this week to a life term in prison and China’s continued refusal to allow him access to Canadian consular assistance. Canadian officials fear he may have been tortured.

“We want consular access to our citizens,” Dan Dugas, communications director for Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, said yesterday.

“We have a consular agreement that is supposed to protect that. We’re going to take a look at it and see what has to be changed in it, to get us what we want,” Mr. Dugas said.

Mr. MacKay plans to raise the Celil case with senior Chinese authorities during a planned visit to Beijing at the end of the month.

The consular agreement can be amended by agreement of both countries, and can be terminated by either side on six-months notice.

The agreement says Canadian consular officials are allowed to protect and secure the rights of Canadian nationals within China. (Provisions are reciprocal, so Beijing’s diplomats can assist Chinese travelling or studying in Canada on a visa.) Consular officials, the agreement says, are to be notified immediately if one of their nationals is arrested or detained. They are also entitled to visit their citizens, provide food, clothing and medicines and to attend trials.

These provisions have been ignored in the Celil case.

In a section dealing with claims of dual nationality, the agreement allows Canadians of Chinese origin to enter and travel in China on a Canadian passport and to be treated as Canadian citizens for consular purposes.

In cases of Chinese Canadians who regularly travel back and forth and may stay for extended periods in China, the agreement says they are to be treated as citizens of the country where they “customarily reside.”

Shortly after the verdict was announced, the Chinese embassy in Canada sent a letter to The Globe and Mail outlining in detail for the first time the allegations against Mr. Celil. Embassy spokesperson Zuo Wenxing said the court found that Mr. Celil knowingly provided 80,000 yuan, or about $11,700, to the founder of a terrorist organization called Hezbollah in China’s Guangdong province in 1997. The founder went on to purchase arms and train terrorists, the court found.

The court also found Mr. Celil had participated in the “criminal activities” of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and also joined the East Turkistan Liberation Organization. According to the court, he helped organize an alliance between the two groups in 1998. China accuses both groups of carrying out more than 260 acts of terrorism in the past decade, including setting off explosions, arson and assassination, killing more than 160 people.

“During the trial, conclusive evidences were presented by the public prosecutors to support the case and Celil himself also admitted to all these crimes,” the embassy spokesman wrote, although no such evidence was made available to The Globe. “Celil spoke in his own defence. The court-appointed counsel also presented his case. The time and venue of the trial was posted on the court bulletin three days beforehand.”

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