China sentences Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death, raises diplomatic tension

Hugh Fox
January 15, 2019

Schellenberg had the right to appeal to Liaoning High Court within 10 days upon receiving the ruling, according to a statement by the Dalian Intermediate People's Court. "Beijing will have to answer to the world why this particular case against a citizen of this particular country had to be retried at this particular moment". A Canadian teacher was detained but released.

In an opening statement, Schellenberg said he had come to China after travelling through Southeast Asia, including Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

The court said it found that Schellenberg was involved in an worldwide drug smuggling operation and was recruited to help smuggle more than 222 kilograms (488 pounds) of methamphetamine from a warehouse in Dalian city to Australia.

But Schellenberg's lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said prosecutors had not produced any new evidence to justify a heavier sentence.

China warned of unspecified consequences unless Meng was released, and detained Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on unpaid leave from the embassy in Beijing, and Michael Spavor, a Canadian consultant, on suspicion of endangering state security.

A general view of the Intermediate People's Court of Dalian where the trial for Robert Lloyd Schellenberg a Canadian citizen on drug smuggling charges was held in Liaoning province China

China has since arrested two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Meng's arrest. Schellenberg, who was to have been deported after serving his original sentence, had lodged an appeal after being ordered in Dalian to 15 years in prison on November 20.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday accused China of choosing to "arbitrarily apply" the death penalty to Schellenberg.

The Chinese government invited foreign media to attend Schellenberg's appeal hearing, which prompted deep speculation that China was using the Canadian man as a bargaining chip.

She was granted bail by a Canadian court several days later but remains under constant surveillance and must wear an electronic ankle tag.

Trudeau repeated the accusation Monday.

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The ruling has deepened a rift between China and Canada, with the sentence coming on the back of China's discontent with Canada's arrest of a top executive from Chinese telecom giant Huawei in December on a United States extradition request related to alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Some foreign experts have said China's swift action in all three cases appeared meant to pressure Canada to free Meng and return her to China, rather than sending her to the United States.

A Chinese person convicted of involvement in the same operation as Schellenberg received a suspended death sentence earlier.

Hua told reporters that Kovrig is no longer a diplomat and entered China on an ordinary passport and business visa.

Hua said: "Kovrig now is not a diplomat, and he came to China with an ordinary passport and business visa".

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Michael Cooper, a Canadian member of Parliament who was in China last week as part of a parliamentary delegation, told The Epoch Times that the sentence illustrates the extent of the tension in the Canada-China relationship.

"On that, I think Canada's in relatively good position because we traditionally have been excellent at banding together and creating meaningful alliances and institutions with a large number of very powerful countries".

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

"The trial will also send the message that China won't yield to outside pressure in implementing its law", it said.

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