Chinese court sentences Canadian drug smuggler Schellenberg to death

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Last month, a court ordered Schellenberg to be retried after he appealed a 15-year prison sentence for smuggling methamphetamines.

A Canadian man in China faces a death sentence for drug smuggling, worsening the countries' relationship weeks after Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Schellenberg's lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said his client has 10 days to contest the latest sentence. He was tried in 2016 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. But following the appeal, a high court in Liaoning ruled in that the sentence was too lenient given the severity of his crimes.

His new sentence comes after China detained two Canadians on national security grounds in December in apparent retaliation for Canada's arrest of a Chinese technology executive.

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

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

A senior Canadian government official said Chinese officials have been questioning Kovrig about his diplomatic work in China, which is a major reason why Trudeau is asserting diplomatic immunity.

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

"The worst-case scenario is what happened, our worst fears were realised", Schellenberg's aunt, Lauri Nelson-Jones, who has acted as a spokeswoman for his family, said by telephone from Maryland. She is out on bail and under house arrest in Canada until the courts there decide whether she can be extradited to the United States.

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In November 2018, a court found him guilty of trying to smuggle methamphetamine from China to Australia.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the sentence was a case of China "choosing to act arbitrarily" and added that China was refusing to follow worldwide principles.

It is believed that he is part of an global drug smuggling operation.

Court retrials are rare in China and retrials calling for a harsher sentence are even rarer, said Donald Clarke, a George Washington University professor specialising in Chinese law.

"The case appears to reinforce the message, previously suggested by the detentions of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, that China views the holding of human hostages as an acceptable way to conduct diplomacy", he wrote.

Meng, 46, is the daughter of Huawei's founder and her detention angered China and soured its relations with both Canada and the US. One week later, two Canadian nationalswere detained in China on suspicion of "engaging in activities harming China's national security".

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that critics "can stop recklessly suspecting others of politicising legal issues just because they have done so".

In 2009, China executed a Briton, Akmal Shaikh, on charges of smuggling heroin despite his supporters' protest that he was mentally ill.

William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, expressed similar sentiments to the Hong Kong-based newspaper.