10/31/2017 12:59 EDT | Updated 10/31/2017 13:01 EDT

Canadian prisoner in China re-educated, says Communist Party official

OTTAWA — A top Chinese Communist Party official says a Canadian imprisoned in China for more than a decade had his life sentence reduced because he took part in a re-education program.

Huseyin Celil, of southern Ontario, received a life sentence in 2007 for terrorism-related charges after a widely criticized trial that has strained Sino-Canadian relations over the course of two Conservative and Liberal governments.

Celil, an advocate for China's persecuted Uighur community, fled to Canada in 2000 and later became a citizen.

He was arrested in Uzbekistan in 2006 on a trip to visit his wife's relatives, and sent to China where he was convicted and sentenced to life a year later.

Last year, the sentences given to Celil and 10 other Uighurs were reduced but the Chinese government didn't specify by how much.

Zuo Feng, a visiting Communist Party official, says Celil's life sentence has been reduced to 18 years.