Tensions between China and Canada were re-kindled on Monday when a Chinese court sentenced a Canadian citizen to death for drug smuggling, a move that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has labelled as “arbitrary.”
The ruling comes in the midst of an ongoing diplomatic dispute between the two nations dating back to last month’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.
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.
He was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison, which Schellenberg appealed last month. During his one-day retrial on Jan. 14, the court found the initial ruling to be too lenient and decided on the death penalty.
In an official statement, the court noted that the evidence against Schellenberg is “compelling and ample, and the criminal charges are well founded.”
However, the Canadian maintains that he was a “tourist visiting China and framed by criminals.”
A day after the verdict was released, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland revealed that Canadian officials had formally requested clemency on Schellenberg’s behalf. He has 10 days to appeal his sentence.
“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 in cases facing, as in this case, facing a Canadian,” Justin Trudeau said in a news conference following the ruling.
Shortly after, the Canadian government updated its travel advisory for China, warning its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
Featured Image screenshot via YouTube / Global News