China sentences Canadian to death, raises diplomatic tension

Chinese police officers stand guard outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing

China's diplomatic clash with Canada escalated sharply on Monday (Jan 14), when a Canadian man was sentenced to death for drug smuggling after a Chinese court overrode his plea of innocence at a retrial that had been swiftly called after tensions erupted between the two countries.

In his defence at his retrial, Schellenberg, a 36-year-old former oil industry employee, said he was a tourist framed by criminals, rejecting allegations he had smuggled more than 200 kgs of methamphetamine in China, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

China has since detained two Canadian nationals, accusing them of endangering national security.

Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 and received his initial 15-year sentence last November, months after his trial began in 2016.

He appealed against the sentence to the Liaoning High People's Court, where prosecutors argued the sentence was too lenient.

"I am not a drug smuggler".

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. A court in Dalian announced Monday night that after being re-tried he was now facing execution.

On Friday, Donald Clarke, a specialist in Chinese law at George Washington University, said in a blog post that Schellenberg's case had several unusual features, including the delay in trial and sentencing, the rare decision for and extraordinary speed in scheduling a retrial, and invitations to worldwide media to observe the case.

William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, expressed similar sentiments to the Hong Kong-based newspaper.

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Ottawa said it was following the case "very closely" and has provided Schellenberg with consular assistance.

Beijing has repeatedly denied any links to Canada´s arrest of the Huawei executive.

Lu Kang, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

Chinese officials have suggested that Schellenberg's case is not related to the arrests of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor last month or the arrest in Canada of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Brought into court in handcuffs, a bespectacled Schellenberg, whose hair had been cut short, was dressed in a white sweater and black pants.

He said a friend recommended a man named Xu Qing as a translator and he was swept up in what has turned out to be an worldwide drug trafficking syndicate.

Schellenberg was told in court he has the right to appeal within 10 days of receiving the ruling.

Chinese prosecutors say that Schellenberg was part of an global syndicate which planned to send some 222kg of methamphetamine to Australia, hidden within plastic pellets concealed in rubber tyres.

Prosecutors presented Xu as a witness, who in almost two hours of testimony did not look at Schellenberg.

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