China Rejects Trudeau's Immunity Claim for Detained Canadian

Leroy Wright
January 14, 2019

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian citizen arrested in China in 2014, was sentenced to death by the Dalian Intermediate People's Court over drug smuggling accusations, CBC reported, citing a statement by the court.

The sentence comes against the backdrop of the Chinese government´s anger over the arrest in Canada of a top executive from telecom giant Huawei last month on a U.S. extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.

Schellenberg will have the right to appeal the sentence, according to Reuters.

Schellenberg's lawyer Zhang Dongshuo told Reuters he will likely appeal the sentence.

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

The move was widely seen as retaliation for Canada's arrest of a top Chinese executive from telecom giant Huawei.

Schellenberg was detained more than four years ago and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. While he appealed the sentence, the effort backfired in December 2018, with the court ruling that his initial sentence was too lenient in light of the charges he'd been convicted of.

The Canadian foreign ministry has said it is following the case "very closely" and has provided Schellenberg consular assistance since his arrest.

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However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Monday that Kovrig is no longer a diplomat and entered China on an ordinary passport and business visa.

As well imposing the death sentence on Schellenberg, Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians last month: Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat; and Michael Spavor, a businessman.

William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, expressed similar sentiments to the Hong Kong-based newspaper. "In accordance with China's criminal law, the court found him guilty and sentenced him to death for drug trafficking and will confiscate all of his property".

In his opening statement on Monday, Schellenberg said he had gone to China after travelling through Southeast Asia, including Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

China has vehemently protested Meng's arrest in Canada and vowed to retaliate.

But Chinese prosecutors said Schellenberg was the principal suspect in a case involving an worldwide syndicate that planned to send some 222 kilogrammes (490 pounds) of methamphetamine to Australia.

Court retrials are rare, said Donald Clarke, a professor at George Washington University specialising in Chinese law, and even rarer are retrials calling for a harsher sentence. They produced a witness, Xu Qing, to testify against the Canadian.

In what is believed to be a retaliation to Meng's arrest, Chinese authorities detained former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who now works for a foreign think tank, and businessman Michael Spavor days later. British resident Akmal Shaikh was executed in 2009 for smuggling heroin.

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