China sentences Canadian man to death for drug smuggling amid Huawei row

China sentences Canadian man to death for drug smuggling amid Huawei row

January 14, 2019

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was convicted of being an accessory to drug smuggling after his plea of innocence was rejected at a sudden retrial in the northeastern Liaoning province.

He was originally detained four years ago and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016.

But last month an appeals court judge agreed with prosecutors that the sentence was too lenient and he faced a retrial with just four days’ notice.

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

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

Canadian President Justin Trudeau condemned Schellenberg’s sentence, saying he was extremely concerned that China had chosen to “arbitrarily” apply the death penalty to a Canadian citizen.

He added that he will continue to “engage strongly” with China over the case.

The case was publicised in China in December after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei.

The detention, on 1 December, was at the request of the US.

Meng Wanzhou, who is the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Vancouver in relation to suspected violations by Huawei of US sanctions placed on Iran.

She denies the allegations and is facing extradition, which she says she will fight.

China has since arrested two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, were arrested on suspicion of endangering national security.

A Canadian teacher was also detained but then released.

China rejected a complaint from Mr Trudeau that Kovrig’s rights were being denied, saying he no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity.

On Friday, Poland arrested a Huawei director and one of its own former cyber security experts, charging them with spying for China.

It comes as the US urges its allies not to use Huawei over data security concerns.

Zhang Dongshuo, Schellenberg’s lawyer, said he has 10 days to appeal. He said prosecutors introduced no new evidence at the retrial and called the case “unique”.

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

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