China Upholds Canadian Prisoner's Death Sentence as Meng Wanzhou Arrest is Back in Focus

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A Chinese court has upheld the death sentence for Canadian citizen Robert Schellenberg, who was arrested for drug smuggling in 2014. Schellenberg was accused of smuggling around 225kg of methamphetamine drug to Australia.

In December 2018 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He appealed but the court sentenced him to death in January 2019, weeks after the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, by Canadian authorities. Meng was arrested in Vancouver on charges of attempted fraud.

Schellenberg and an assistant repackaged the drugs, inspected the cargo, and calculated the workload before shipping them out in containers. After his assistant turned himself into the police, Schellenberg fled the city and was arrested in southern China on December 1, 2014, when he tried to escape from the country, according to the court.

Schellenberg's case has been labeled by foreign governments as "hostage diplomacy" by Chinese authorities. It has fueled political tension between the Chinese and Canadian governments. Dominic Barton, Canada's ambassador to China, condemned the decision and called for China to grant mercy.

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Separately, another court is reportedly expected to deliver a sentence against Canadian Michael Spavor, a businessman who was accused of spying, along with former ambassador Michael Kovrig.

On Tuesday morning, the court rejected Schellenberg's appeal against his death sentence on drug smuggling charges. According to the Globe and Mail, the decision on his case is expected to be reviewed by China's equivalent of the supreme court.

The Chinese court stated that the facts and evidence presented in the earlier trial were clear and reliable. "The conviction was accurate, the sentence was appropriate, and the trial proceedings were under the law," the Chinese court said.

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A policeman makes a recording of a journalist during lawyer Pu Zhiqiang's verdict outside the second intermediate people's court of Beijing December 22, 2015. Reuters

"We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment and will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg," Marc Garneau, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, said.

Canadian officials believe that the arrest of Spavor and Kovrig, and the retrial of Schellenberg have been linked to the arrest of Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Barton told the Globe and Mail it was no coincidence that it and the expected Spavor verdict were happening as Meng's case drew to an end.