Chinese court hands death sentence to Canadian amid Huawei CFO row

Michael Kovrig

Last month, a court ordered Schellenberg to be retried after he appealed a 15-year prison sentence for smuggling methamphetamines. In November 2018, he was sentenced to 15 years in jail and a fine amounting to 150,000 yuan ($22,185). But within weeks of Meng's December 1 arrest an appeals court suddenly reversed that decision, saying the sentence was too lenient, and scheduled Monday's retrial with just four days' notice.

China has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes in the past, including a Japanese national in 2014 and a Filipina in 2013.

A Canadian man who was convicted of smuggling drugs in China has been sentenced to death.

Two other Chinese men have been involved in this case - one was sentenced to life imprisonment, another handed a suspended death sentence.

Ottawa briefly detained Meng before allowing her to await extradition to the U.S. in a multimillion-dollar home she owns in Canada.

William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said the human rights group is "very concerned that Robert Schellenberg may be sentenced to death".

He says that China's leaders seem to think that the Canadian government can influence the courts like the Chinese Communist Party can in China.

The maximum penalty for worldwide drug trafficking in China is death.

Canada will do all it can to intervene on Robert Lloyd Schellenberg's behalf and Beijing's actions should be worrisome for "all our worldwide friends and allies", Trudeau said Monday.

China rejected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's claim that a Canadian detained last month in Beijing was entitled to diplomatic protections against prosecution.

Earlier in the day Schellenberg told the court that he had been framed when prosecutors pushed for a harsher sentence in a case which could further exacerbate tensions between the US, Canada and China.

Chinese prosecutors accused Schellenberg of trying to smuggle 222 kilograms (nearly 500 pounds) of methamphetamines in a auto tire liner from China to Australia and listed a series of phone conversations implicating him.

Beijing and Ottawa have been locked in a diplomatic tussle since the December 1 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the United States, where she is accused of fraud related to Iranian sanctions violations.

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.

"He's become a pawn", his aunt Lauri Nelson-Jones told the New York Times.

Image: Meng Wanzhou is a long-serving executive at Huawei.

In 2009, China executed Briton Akmal Shaikh for smuggling heroin despite protests that he was mentally ill.

A former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said interrogating Kovrig about his time as a diplomat in China would violate Vienna Convention protections of residual diplomatic immunity that mean a country is not allowed to question someone on the work they did when they were a diplomat.

At a news briefing Friday, a spokesman for the ministry, Lu Kang, said critics should not undermine Chinese law for political purposes.

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