According to the Canadian government, Beijing is using the death penalty of a Canadian citizen to put pressure on Ottawa after the arrest of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou.
The death sentence of a Canadian citizen for drug trafficking could lead to an escalation of tensions.
On Monday, the Dalian People’s Court in the northeastern Liaoning province changed Robert Shellenberg’s sentence from 15 years of imprisonment to a death sentence after it was determined that the Canadian citizen played a key role in a failed attempt to bring 222kg of Chinese production methamphetamine from China to Australia in 2014.
Schellenberg, detained since 2014, had received a 15-year sentence in November of last year.
In December, a higher court ordered that the trial had to be redone as new evidence that determined the centrality of Schellenberg had emerged.
The new trial lasted a day before a verdict and a sentence was pronounced.
It has not escaped analysts the coincidence of the tightening of the condemnation with the current diplomatic crisis between the Chinese and the Canadian government, and many have wondered if Beijing is not actually using Shellenberg’s life to put pressure on Ottawa regarding the intricate issue of the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, executive and daughter of the founder of Huawei.
According to Maggie Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, there are numerous ways in which authorities can accelerate, slow down or even stop this process.
Schellenberg has 10 days to appeal to the death sentence.
If he does not do it, or if the appeal is rejected, the court’s verdict will go to the People’s Supreme Court in Beijing.
If approved, the execution could take place within seven days.
The court also has the tools to reduce the sentence.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Beijing of arbitrarily applying the death penalty in the Schellenberg case.
On Tuesday, the state-run Global Times criticized Trudeau’s remarks, pointing out that drug trafficking is a crime in China and the Western’s double standard.
“Western centrism has been very obvious in recent disputes between China and Canada. Whatever Canada does, it is the rule of law, but whatever China does is not. Canadian elites are feeling so righteous with this double standard, and it is time for them to wake up from such cultural and value narcissism. […]”
Two other Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, are detained in China on unspecified national security charges.