China upholds death sentence for Canadian Robert Schellenberg

O'Toole warns Canadians not safe in China after court upholds death sentence

A Chinese court upheld on Tuesday a Canadian man’s death sentence for drug smuggling, prompting condemnation from Ottawa, a day before another court is due to rule on the case of a Canadian accused of spying.

The court proceedings for the two Canadians come as lawyers in Canada representing the detained chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei (HWT.UL) make a final push to persuade a court there not to extradite her to the United States. read more

Robert Schellenberg was arrested in China in 2014 for suspected drug smuggling, convicted in 2018 and jailed for 15 years. The High Court in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning heard his appeal against the death sentence in May last year and confirmed the verdict on Tuesday.

“Canada strongly condemns China’s decision to uphold the death penalty sentence,” Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement. “We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment.”

Schellenberg was initially condemned to death by a court in Dalian in January 2019 – a month after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States.

She was charged with misleading HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, potentially causing the bank to violate U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

Meng, who has said she is innocent, has been fighting her extradition from Vancouver. Her bail conditions mean she can leave her residence during the day and the evening under supervision but must stay home at night.

Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, told reporters the proceedings against Canadian citizens were not a coincidence given the Vancouver case.

Barton said a court in the northeastern city of Dandong is expected to announce a verdict on Michael Spavor as early as Wednesday.

Businessman Spavor and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were detained in China days after Meng’s arrest. Spavor was charged with espionage in June last year and went to trial in March.

The cases of Spavor and Kovrig could become an issue in a Canadian federal election that Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to call in the next few days.

Erin O’Toole, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, says the Liberals are not being tough enough on China. He told reporters on Tuesday that Beijing was “planning to take the life of a Canadian for political reasons” and suggested athletes boycott the Winter Olympics in China next year.

Ottawa accuses Beijing of engaging in “hostage diplomacy” in a bid to free Meng. China has rejected the suggestion that the cases are linked while warning of unspecified consequences unless Meng is released.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of more than 99%.

Since Meng’s arrest, China has sentenced at least three Chinese-born Canadians to death for drug offences.


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