Detained Canadian does not have diplomatic immunity, says China

Nellie Chapman
January 14, 2019

China's court has sentenced a Canadian man to death for drug smuggling - a verdict likely to reignite a diplomatic row between the two countries.

A new trial was ordered and took place Monday, in China's Liaoning province, with Schellenberg being found guilty and given a death sentence.

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the Vancouver airport on December 1 at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited to face fraud charges.

Experts said retrials are rare in China, especially ones calling for a harsher sentence, but rights groups noted that courts are not independent and can be influenced by the Communist Party.

After the retrial, Schellenberg's lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said: "The sentence is very regretful".

The high court hearing came after Canada's arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of authorities in the USA on December 1st. In November 2018, he was sentenced to 15 years in jail and a fine amounting to 150,000 yuan ($22,185). His appeal backfired as a high court in Liaoning ruled in December that the sentence was too lenient given the severity of his crimes.

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.

As well imposing the death sentence on Schellenberg, Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians last month: Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat; and Michael Spavor, a businessman.

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Prosecutors told the court that they "now have evidence that highly suggests Schellenberg was involved in organised global drug crime", China's central television broadcaster said in an online report.

"The Chinese approach is to make a point, and I think even their ambassador here has suggested that they've made their point", said Hyder.

Amnesty China researcher William Nee.

Some foreign experts have said China's swift action in all three cases appeared meant to pressure Canada to free Meng and return her to China, rather than sending her to the United States.

Schellenberg was again found guilty of taking part in an worldwide drug-smuggling ring, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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

Hua, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, called on Poland to allow Chinese diplomats to visit the suspect, Wang Weijing, and handle the case in accordance with the law. At a news briefing Friday, a spokesman for the ministry, Lu Kang, said critics should not undermine Chinese law for political purposes.

China has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes in the past, including a Japanese national in 2014 and a Filipino in 2013.

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