Published: Thu, January 17, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Death sentence heightens Canada-China tensions

Death sentence heightens Canada-China tensions

In a move observers see as retaliation, Chinese authorities detained two Canadian citizens - a former diplomat and a business consultant - on suspicion of endangering national security.

"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 tweeted.

Though Meng was released on bail a few weeks ago, she remains on house-arrest in British Columbia while the United States pursues her extradition, as Chinese authorities have responded furiously to her detainment and have threatened consequences.

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.

In the weeks that followed her arrest China detained two other Canadian citizens.

"To those people, China's self-defense is an offense to Canada".

Meng was arrested in Vancouver on December 1, 2018, by Canadian law enforcement at the behest of the United States.

Alex Lawrence, chief spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, declined to comment.

The warning comes amid news that a Canadian has been handed the death sentence after being found guilty of drug trafficking.

China also worked hard to push Schellenberg's case to worldwide prominence, taking the highly unusual step of inviting foreign journalists into the court, the BBC's John Sudworth in Beijing reports.

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Trudeau said it should be of "extreme concern" to Canada's friends and allies, as it was to Canada's government, that China had chosen to "arbitrarily apply" the death penalty.

Schellenberg, who has been detained since 2014, originally received a sentence of 15 years in a ruling in November last year.

Responding to Canada's decision to update a travel advisory to warn citizens about the "risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws" in China, Hua said: "Canada should remind its own citizens to definitely not engage in drug smuggling in China". She was granted bail shortly after her arrest, but remains under constant surveillance and must wear an electronic ankle tag.

Drug smuggling is routinely punished severely in China, and foreigners convicted of drug crimes have been executed before, including a Briton in 2009. He has the option of appealing again within 10 days.

According to China.org.cn, a government-run website, at least 12 foreign drug dealers have been executed in China since 2000, "and other foreigners were sentenced to death for other serious crimes".

"I also agree with the prime minister, who referred to the arbitrary death penalty", said McCallum, who is expected to brief Trudeau's cabinet at a retreat this week in Sherbrooke, Que.

The family of a Canadian man who has been sentenced to death in China say their "worst fears" have been realised.

"It is Canada, not China, that is arbitrarily detaining foreign citizens under the guise of the law".

Earlier on Monday, China's government dismissed Trudeau's statement that Kovrig enjoyed some form of diplomatic immunity.

China also suddenly began working hard to push Schellenberg's case to worldwide prominence, taking the highly unusual step of inviting foreign journalists into the court, the BBC's John Sudworth in Beijing reports.

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