China sentences Canadian man to death for drug smuggling

A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian man to death on drug trafficking charges on Monday after his previous 15-year prison sentence was deemed too lenient, deepening a diplomatic rift as Canadian premier Justin Trudeau accused Beijing of "arbitrarily" using capital punishment.

Schellenberg, a Canadian drug smuggler, was sentenced to death at the Dalian Intermediate People's Court in northeast China's Liaoning Province, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Monday night.

Since Meng's arrest, China has detained two more Canadians - Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur - on vague allegations that they threaten Chinese national security.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was detained in China in 2014 and sentenced in November to 15 years in prison.

The ruling has deepened a rift between China and Canada, with the sentence coming on the back of China's discontent with Canada's arrest of a top executive from Chinese telecom giant Huawei in December on a USA extradition request related to alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

A man holds a sign calling for China to release Wang Bingzhang and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, at the B.C. Supreme Court bail hearing of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, Canada.

"As it should be to all our worldwide friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply the death penalty, as in this case facing a Canadian".

In late December, a Dalian court bolstered his charge to worldwide drug trafficking, deemed his punishment to be too light, and called for a retrial.

Beijing has repeatedly denied any diplomatic pressure in the case.

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A Chinese person convicted of involvement in the same operation was earlier given a suspended death sentence.

"When these things happen, the Chinese regime will express outrage at Canada for detaining Chinese nationals, and demand that they be put on the next plane back to China", Ansley, who is now living in Canada, told The Epoch Times.

Image: Meng Wanzhou is a long-serving executive at Huawei. The apparent weak evidence against the Canadian, the speed in scheduling a retrial, and China's invitation of the worldwide press to cover the sentencing all indicate that the move could be retaliatory and aimed at gaining leverage over Ottawa.

"The accusations that the Chinese side arbitrarily detains Canadian citizens are unfounded", said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing.

Before his arrest, on December 1, 2014, Schellenberg had prepared to flee to Thailand from Dalian but was arrested when in transit in Guangzhou, the court said.

Schellenberg was found guilty of being involved in an worldwide drugs operation after being recruited to smuggle more than 222kg (488lbs) of methamphetamine from a warehouse in the Chinese city Dalian to Australia.

In 2009, China executed a Briton, Akmal Shaikh, on charges of smuggling heroin despite his supporters' protest that he was mentally ill. "I suggest that the relevant Canadian person carefully study the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and worldwide law before commenting on the cases, or they would only expose themselves to ridicule with such specious remarks".

"It's hard not to see a link" between the case and Canada's arrest of Meng, Saint-Jacques said.

  • Sonia Alvarado