With China maintaining a hard-line stand on imprisoned Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil, a Liberal MP is proposing that Canada push for a face-saving compromise that would see Mr. Celil permanently deported.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay arrived in Beijing Sunday and is preparing for a meeting Monday with his Chinese counterpart, but early indications suggest he is unlikely to make much progress on the Celil case.

Mr. MacKay, in his first visit to Beijing since his government took office last year, has pledged to raise the case of Mr. Celil, the Canadian imam who was sentenced to life imprisonment on terrorism charges in China this month. The government has strongly protested against China’s refusal to let Canada have consular access to a citizen, as required under international agreements.

But in a blunt statement on the eve of the visit, China showed no sign of any willingness to back down. It insisted that Mr. Celil is a Chinese citizen. “We believe the case is China’s internal affair and in essence relates to anti-terrorism,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference late last week.

“It has no connection with Canada. We hope the Canadian side will not interfere with China’s internal affairs under this pretext.”

Liberal MP Keith Martin, who is accompanying Mr. MacKay to some of his Beijing meetings, said Sunday that the best chance of a solution is an agreement that would see Mr. Celil permanently deported to another country – perhaps Canada – if he promises to stay away from China. The idea is also being suggested privately by some Canadian scholars and rights activists, he said.

If this happened, China would consider Mr. Celil to be exiled from the country – a solution it has sometimes permitted for political prisoners and dissidents in the past – and China would not have to compromise on its belief that Mr. Celil is a terrorist.

“It would give China a face-saving way out,” Mr. Martin said in an interview in Beijing.

“If China wishes to take a positive step forward, with the Beijing Olympics approaching next year, it would be good if Mr. Celil could be sent into exile. It’s the most pragmatic way of dealing with this case.”

Mr. MacKay, who has waited almost 15 months to make his first visit to China, will need further visits if he wants to repair the damaged relationship between the two countries, Mr. Martin said.

“China hasn’t slammed the door in our face, but they’re perturbed,” he said. “The new federal government has put a chill on the relationship, either through neglect, ignorance or willful disregard. It has to do better. It will require a significant effort to improve the relationship.”

He noted that Mr. MacKay has not arranged any meetings with China’s Justice or Public Security ministries, even though those ministries are more powerful than China’s Foreign Ministry in dealing with cases such as the Celil case.

“The only way we’re going to have any impact on the Celil case is if we can build relations with senior Chinese officials, including the public-security officials,” he said. “Only then can we continually push the issue.”

Before heading to China last week, Mr. MacKay promised that he would use “tact” and “nurturing” to try to improve relations without being “confrontational.”

Written by: Geoffrey York
Original Link: theglobeandmail.com/news/world/beijing-talks-tough-on-jailed-canadian/article1075081/