Canadian man sentenced to death in China following drug smuggling case

Arturo Kim
January 15, 2019

Schellenberg can appeal his sentence to the Liaoning Provincial Higher People's Court.

Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei, on December 1 at the request of the United States, angering Beijing.

Hua insisted the allegation that China arbitrarily detained Canadian citizens is "totally groundless".

In an opening statement, Schellenberg said he had come to China after travelling through Southeast Asia, including Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

A lawyer for Schellenberg, Zhang Dongshuo, told Reuters his client would probably appeal against the death sentence.

Prosecutors argued that the original penalty was insufficient due to evidence that Schellenberg was involved in an global drug trafficking operation, according to a statement published on the court's website.

Zhang said he argued in the one-day trial Monday that there was insufficient evidence to prove Schellenberg's involvement in the drug-smuggling operation, nor had prosecutors introduced new evidence to justify a heavier sentence.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have also been arrested in China on suspicion of endangering national security, and a teacher was detained while in the country but has since been released.

Experts have directly linked the Canadians' detentions to China's Huawei dispute.

Schellenberg was detained in 2014 and sentenced to 15 years in prison two years later.

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"It is of extreme concern to us as a government - as it should be to all our worldwide friends and allies - that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply a death penalty", he told reporters on Monday.

"The court, instead of deciding the appeal one way or the other by itself, sent the case back down to the original trial court for a re-trial", Clarke wrote in a blog post on LawFare.

"It appears the Government of China may be politicizing this case in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou".

In response to her arrest in December, Huawei said in a statement it was "not aware of any wrongdoing" by Meng and said it had been provided "very little information" on the incident, other than Meng being detained by Canadian authorities on behalf of the USA when she was transferring flights in Canada.

She was granted bail by a Canadian court several days later but remains under constant surveillance and must wear an electronic ankle tag.

Trudeau said last week that Chinese officials were not respecting Kovrig's diplomatic immunity. "I suggest that the relevant Canadian person carefully study the Vienna Convention. before commenting on the cases, or they would only expose themselves to ridicule with such specious remarks".

He told The Associated Press that "it's hard not to see a link" between the case and Canada's arrest of Meng.

Canada accused China last week of not respecting the principles of diplomatic immunity in the detention of Kovrig - who is an employee of Canada's foreign department but has been on leave from that job to work with the International Crisis Group.

"On that, I think Canada's in relatively good position because we traditionally have been excellent at banding together and creating meaningful alliances and institutions with a large number of very powerful countries".

Fast called on the Trudeau Government Monday to outline the steps being taken to ensure Schellenberg does not lose his life, and asked for immediate intervention. That comes amid a U.S. campaign to exert pressure on its allies not to use Huawei, the world's biggest maker of telecommunications network equipment, over data security concerns.

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