Thursday, July 7

Chinese court confirms death sentence for Canadian drug convict


A Chinese court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of a Canadian drug convict’s death sentence, in what appeared to be an effort to increase pressure on Canada to release a detained executive from tech giant Huawei.

The Canadian government condemned the ruling and asked China to grant clemency to Robert Schellenberg.

His sentence was sharply increased from a 15-year prison term to death after Meng Wanzhou’s arrest on December 1, 2018 on US charges related to possible dealings with Iran.

In separate cases, two other Canadians, a former diplomat and a businessman, were arrested on espionage charges as China demanded Meng’s release.

The Higher People’s Court of Liaoning Province, in the northeast, rejected Schellenberg’s appeal and sent the case to the Supreme Court of China for review, as required by law before death sentences can be carried out.

“We condemn the verdict in the strongest possible terms and ask China to grant Robert clemency,” Canadian Ambassador to Beijing Dominic Barton told reporters. He criticized the penalty as “cruel and inhumane.”

“His retrial and subsequent sentencing were arbitrary,” Barton said by phone from the northeastern city of Shenyang, where he attended the appeals court hearing.

Schellenberg was convicted of smuggling 222 kilograms (448 pounds) of methamphetamine, according to the court.

He was sentenced in November 2018 to 15 years and was sentenced to death again in January 2019 after a one-day retrial.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and a Canadian businessman, Michael Spavor, were arrested in December 2018 and later charged with espionage.

A Canadian judge will hear final arguments in the coming weeks on whether Meng should be extradited. He has been living under house arrest in Vancouver.

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Canada is, along with Australia and the Philippines, among a growing group of countries facing arrests of their citizens, trade boycotts and other pressure from Beijing over political disputes.

The United States and other governments have warned their citizens of a “higher risk of arbitrary detention” in China for purposes other than law enforcement.

Barton said he would travel to the northeastern city of Dandong later Tuesday to see Spavor.

When asked when a ruling might come in the Spavor case, Barton said, “our sense is that it’s tomorrow.” As for Kovrig, the ambassador said, “we have not received any indication of that.”

When asked if the three cases were related to Meng’s, Barton said: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is happening right now while events are happening in Vancouver.” He said the case was “part of the geopolitical process of what is happening.”

The ambassador said Canadian diplomats spoke with Schellenberg after the ruling, but declined to give details.

“He’s extraordinarily composed,” Barton said. “We had a good conversation.”

Diplomats from the United States, Germany, Australia and France attended Tuesday’s hearing, according to Barton. He thanked them and other governments for expressing their support for Canada.

Two other Canadians, Fan Wei and Xu Weihong, were also sentenced to death on drug charges in separate cases in 2019 due to deteriorating relations between Beijing and Ottawa.

The United States wants Huawei executive Meng, who is the daughter of the company’s founder, to be extradited to face charges that she lied to banks in Hong Kong in connection with deals with Iran that could violate trade sanctions.

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The Chinese government has criticized the case as a politically motivated attempt to hamper the development of the country’s industry.


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