Ottawa, Jan 15 (IECurrentAffairs) A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian man to death for drug smuggling, a ruling that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quick to condemn and one that is certain to aggravate tense relations between Beijing and Ottawa as Canada has already updated its travel advisory for China to warn citizens about the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.
“Exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws,” the note reads, citing “death penalty, penalties for drug-related offences.”
Trudeau said Canada will always intervene when a Canadian is sentenced to death in another country.
All of this came after Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian citizen was given the death penalty on drug-smuggling charges after appealing the initial 15-year jail term. He will now have 10 days to challenge the ruling.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was extremely concerned about this turn of events, which coincided with a process in Canada against a senior executive of China’s telecoms giant Huawei.
“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 the death penalty as in this case facing a Canadian,” CBC news quoted Trudeau as saying.
Former Canadian ambassador to China Saint-Jacques said the fact that Schellenberg’s re-trial was organized so quickly, against a backdrop of heightened tensions with Canada, makes him believe the death sentence was predetermined.
“I think it shows clearly that they wanted to apply the rules maybe with more zeal than they would have otherwise,” he said.
“I think all this was orchestrated.” former ambassador added.
Chinese state television said in an earlier report that Schellenberg argued in court that he was a tourist visiting China and was framed by criminals. Before his arrest, on Dec. 1, 2014, Schellenberg had prepared to flee to Thailand from Dalian but was arrested when in transit in Guangzhou, the court said.
This ruling could further strain China’s relationship with Canada, which turned toxic in the wake of the Dec. 1 arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, at the request of the United States.
China denounced her arrest, warning of unspecified consequences unless she was released, and has since detained two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — on suspicion of endangering state security.