A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian man to death on accusations of drug trafficking, a move that could escalate tensions between the two nations stemming from the arrest of a Huawei Technologies Co. executive.
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg faces the death penalty for drug trafficking after a one-day trial, according to a statement posted on the website of the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court. Schellenberg was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison after his conviction, but saw the penalty increased after an appeal. He can still appeal the latest decision.
“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, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Monday in Ottawa.
The court said Schellenberg was involved in smuggling 222 kilograms (489 pounds) of crystal meth. His initial conviction on Nov. 20, with a lower penalty, found him to have been an accomplice.
The death sentence comes as two other high-profile Canadian cases in China remain in limbo. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were each detained on Dec. 10 in the aftermath of Canada’s arrest in Vancouver of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou. Meng is out on bail, while Kovrig and Spavor remain in custody.
Canada accused China last week of not respecting the principles of diplomatic immunity in the detention of Kovrig — who is an employee of Canada’s foreign department but has been on leave from that job to work with the International Crisis Group. China said the claim of immunity makes Canada a “ laughing stock.” Trudeau repeated the accusation Monday.
China executes more people than any other country in the world, according to Amnesty International. The advocacy group estimates that Beijing executed thousands of people in 2017, compared to 993 known cases in the rest of the world, though precise figures aren’t available. In 2017, the group was aware of four countries, including China, that executed people on drug-related offenses.