Chinese media rejects suggestion death for Canadian drug smuggler a pressure tactic

Muriel Colon
January 16, 2019

Monday's death sentence for Canadian Robert Schellenberg for smuggling 222 kg of methamphetamines became the latest strain on ties.

Trudeau expressed "extreme concern" that China had "chosen to arbitrarily" apply the death penalty.

"We urge the Canadian side to respect the rule of law, respect China's legal sovereignty, correct its mistakes, and stop making irresponsible remarks", Hua said.

"Playing hostage politics, China rushes the retrial of a Canadian suspect and sentences him to death in a fairly transparent attempt to pressure Canada", Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said in a tweet.

China and Canada are embroiled in a worsening dispute, sparked by the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a United States extradition request.

Days after Meng's arrest in Vancouver, China detained two Canadians on suspicion of endangering state security.

Lu Shaye, China's ambassador to Canada, suggested in a newspaper article last week that the arrest of Kovrig and Spavor was "China's self-defence", but did not give details.

Hua was equally dismissive of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's concerns about irregularities in the proceedings against Schellenberg, who spent the past two years appealing a 15-year prison sentence for drug trafficking, only to find himself suddenly sentenced to death instead by a court in the city of Dalian.

In this image taken from a video footage run by China's CCTV, Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, 36, attends his retrial at the Dalian Intermediate People's Court in Dalian, northeastern China's Liaoning province on Monday.

It warned Chinese citizens to fully evaluate risks and exercise caution when traveling to the country, given Canada's recent "arbitrary detention" of a Chinese national at the request of another country.

Chinese state television said in an earlier report that Schellenberg argued in court that he was a tourist visiting China and was framed by criminals.

"I can very clearly state that we are not anxious in the slightest", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying stated, adding that Canada's "so-called allies could be counted on 10 fingers", and their opinion does not actually represent the stance of the global community.

State media has played up coverage of his case following the deterioration in relations with Canada. "You should ask the Australian officials if they were happy to see these drugs being imported into their country", she said at her Wednesday press briefing.

China is urging its citizens to be cautious about going to Canada.

"We have very clearly outlined the case's facts and its seriousness", she added.

Schellenberg plans to appeal, his lawyer Zhang Dongshuo told AFP.

"China should respect other nations' judicial procedure and rule of law, and it should not use foreign citizens as pawns".

China's justice system has been routinely condemned for its handling of capital punishment, with a 2008 Washington Post investigation finding it was notable for its "secrecy, lack of due process and uneven application of the law".

But worldwide rights groups condemned Schellenberg's sentence, with some saying it was too severe and may have been politically motivated.

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