Death sentence confirmed for the first of the two Canadian citizens arrested in China
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A Chinese court has confirmed the death sentence for Canadian Robert Schellenberg. Soon, another court will have to rule on a similar case involving another Canadian citizen accused of espionage.
Their cases have been labeled “hostage diplomacy“, having been linked to the case of the daughter of Huawei founder, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada. According to many, China has sentenced the two Canadian citizens to death as a form of retaliation against the Canadian government, which is supposed to extradite Meng to the US. The pending extradition hearing in Canada has sent relations between the two countries into a tailspin. China has always denied these coincidences, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that Chinese officials are well aware that the cases are connected.
Schellenberg was arrested in China in 2004 on charges of trying to smuggle 225kg of methamphetamine into Australia produced in China. Schellenberg has always maintained his innocence. In December 2018, he was sentenced to 15 years, but after his appeal, a retrial was ordered and the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court instead sentenced him to death.
The Chinese court said the previous trial was clear and the evidence was reliable and sufficient. “The conviction was accurate, the sentence was appropriate and the trial was in accordance with the law”.
In a similar case, another court will have to rule in the case involving a Canadian citizen, Michael Spavor, a businessman who was charged with espionage, along with former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who was tried in secret in March after more than 830 days in detention.
Meng was arrested at Vancouver airport on a US warrant in late 2018 over allegations that she committed fraud by misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran. The US alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran, in violation of sanctions.
Canada, through its ambassador to China Dominic Barton, condemned the verdict.
According to many analysts, the trial and death sentence of the two Canadian citizens would be used as leverage to try to send the daughter of Huawei’s boss back home to China.