BEIJING – A Chinese court issued the death penalty on Monday in the trial of a convicted Canadian drug dealer, a ruling that would sharply increase China's diplomatic ties with Canada and the United States.
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg's new sentence comes after a court appeal this month sided with prosecutors, who claimed that his original 15-year sentence was too light for new evidence involving the role 36-year-old native of Vancouver in an organized drug trafficking operation.
The case was condemned by Western legal experts and relatives of Schellenberg, who claim that China is using Schellenberg as a means of bargaining in its efforts to free a senior technology executive whose detention in Canada has infuriated the Chinese government.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did his best, but commented on the matter, expressing "extreme concern" for the case.
"We are deeply concerned as a government – as it should be for all our friends and international allies – that China has chosen to start arbitrarily applying a death penalty" he told reporters in Ottawa.
Huawei's Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested at Vancouver Airport on December 1 at the request of the United States, who wants her to be extradited to face charges of fraud related to alleged violations of Iranian sanctions.
The Dalian Intermediate People's Court announced Schellenberg's new statement in an online statement explaining in detail how he conspired with three others to pack more than 200 kilograms of methamphetamine in tires to be shipped to Australia. The declaration did not describe the defense of Schellenberg; he previously claimed to have been framed.
If he chooses, Schellenberg could appeal again within 10 days, the court said. His case should be examined by the higher courts before being put to death.
Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 and received his original conviction in 2018 in a case that has largely gone unnoticed.
It came to light this month, when the Chinese government took the rare step of inviting foreign media to participate in its appeal hearing – suggesting that Beijing wanted to use the Schellenberg case to exert pressure on Ottawa to free Meng, a senior executive in one of the samples of the Chinese technology industry.
Last month, the Chinese authorities arrested Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two other Canadians living in China, accused of national security crimes. They highlighted the case of Schellenberg and the prospect of putting him to death shortly thereafter.
"The procedures in the case of Mr. Schellenberg would be unusual even if he were a Chinese citizen." The fact that he is Canadian, coupled with the reception by foreign media in the judicial process, makes him very suspicious, "said Professor Margaret Lewis. of law at Seton Hall University.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesmen rejected the allegations that the political motivations are driving the treatment of Canadian prisoners, claiming that their cases were handled in accordance with Chinese law.
But the comments of the Chinese ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, seem to have admitted that Beijing has taken "self-defense" actions in response to Meng's arrest.
In a flaming editorial published last week in Ottawa's Hill Times, the Chinese diplomat has attacked "Western egotism and white supremacy", arguing that Canadians who criticized China's treatment of Canadians were guilty of racism and double standard.
"For these people, China's self-defense is an offense to Canada," wrote Lu.