Death penalty for Canadian escalates China-Canada tensions
TORONTO (AP) — A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian to death in a sudden retrial of his drug smuggling case, while another Canadian man has been denied diplomatic immunity, ratcheting up the tensions following Canada’s arrest of a top Chinese technology executive last month.
The Liaoning provincial court in northeastern China announced the death sentence for Robert Lloyd Schellenberg on Monday, reversing a 15-year prison term from a November 2018 sentencing. Schellenberg first went on trial in 2016.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned Monday’s proceeding, suggesting that China was using its judicial system to pressure Canada over the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
In his strongest comments yet, Trudeau said “all countries around the world” should be concerned that Beijing is acting arbitrarily with its justice system.
“It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply a death penalty,” Trudeau said.
Canada later updated its travel advisory for China urging Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
Further escalating the diplomatic rift between the two countries, a Chinese spokeswoman said earlier Monday that Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat taken into custody in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, was not eligible for diplomatic immunity as Trudeau has maintained.
A senior Canadian government official said Chinese officials have been questioning Kovrig about his diplomatic work in China, which is a major reason why Trudeau is asserting diplomatic immunity.
The official, who was not authorised to comment publicly about the case, spoke on condition of anonymity.