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Ottawa formally requests clemency for Canadian sentenced to death in China

16 January, 2019, 23:42 | Author: Lawrence Cooper
  • An Air Canada jet takes off against a bank of fog from Vancouver International Airport on Tuesday morning. Late Monday the federal government updated its advisory for travellers to China ‘due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attend a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Dec. 4, 2017.

The United States has backed Canada's claim that the death sentence awarded to Robert Schellenberg is "politically motivated" as China continues to accuse the Canadian government of being soft on drug crime.

But China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying strongly rejected Mr Trudeau's comments, saying they were "entirely malicious slander".

Hua told reporters at a daily briefing Tuesday that China expresses "our strong dissatisfaction with this".

Of course, China is referring here to Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver on December 1st at the request of authorities in the USA where she is wanted on suspicion of violating Iran sanctions.

Canada arrested Meng, the daughter of Huawei's founder and also known as Sabrina Meng and Cathy Meng, at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited to face fraud charges.

According to the Dalian Intermediate People's Court via CNN, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was a‌rr‌‌est‌ed in 2014 for allegedly attempting to sm‌ug‌gle more than 222 kilograms (489.4 pounds) of m‌etham‌phet‌amine from the Chinese port city of Dalian to Australia.

The Chinese authorities initially sentenced the Canadian citizen to 15 years in prison.

Chinese state media has played up coverage of Schellenberg's case following the deterioration in relations with Canada.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday that Ottawa had formally applied for clemency for Schellenberg, as it usually does for citizens condemned to death overseas.

China has not linked Schellenberg's sentence to Meng's case and the nationalist Global Times tabloid said in an editorial late on Monday that the idea that China was putting pressure on Canada with the sentence was "unreasonable speculation" and showed "rude contempt toward Chinese law".

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'We believe it is inhumane and inappropriate, and wherever the death penalty is considered with regard to a Canadian we speak out against it, ' she said.

Freeland said she had spoken to Schellenberg's father on Monday, adding it had been "a very emotional conversation for him".

A lawyer for Schellenberg, Zhang Dongshuo, said his client would appeal.

Lewis said the court was likely to confirm the sentence and the case would move up to the Supreme People's Court. Zhang said while the court's actions were all lawful, they were also "abnormal".

Trudeau said it should be of "extreme concern" to Canada's friends and allies, as it was to Canada's government, that China had chosen to "arbitrarily apply" the death penalty.

Canada also updated its travel advisory regarding China, urging its citizens to exercise a "high degree of caution" before going there, Freeland stated. "For serious crimes posing great harm to the society like drug smuggling, I believe it is the worldwide consensus that such crimes shall be strictly handled and punished".

A Chinese man convicted of involvement in the same operation was earlier given a suspended death sentence.

Rights groups condemned the Schellenberg sentence while Guy St-Jacques, who was Canada's ambassador in Beijing when Kovrig worked there, expressed concern at how quickly the courts had acted.

"The sudden retrial and apparent rush to judgment has highlighted the numerous flaws in China's judicial system, " China researcher William Nee said in a statement.

However, the Canadian maintains that he was a "tourist visiting China and framed by cri‌min‌als".

Hua's comments add to increasingly strained relations between the two countries since Canada detained Meng on December 1, followed soon after by China's arrest of Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, on allegations they were undermining national security.

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