China sentences Canadian to death, raises diplomatic tension

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Canada has recommended that citizens exercise "high degree of caution" during trips to China, after a Canadian man was sentenced to death over drugs smuggling charges on Monday.

"Everything about Robert Lloyd Schellenberg's case screams retaliatory and arbitrary, from the odd step for China of inviting foreign media to his appeal hearing to the nearly immediate announcement of his capital sentencing", Caster said Tuesday.

His sentence prompted speculation that the reversal was in retaliation for Canada's arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

Schellenberg's case was the most recent in a series of incidents between Ottawa and Beijing which began with Meng's arrest at the request of the US.

Schellenberg was detained in China in 2014 and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016 for drug peddling in China. Earlier Monday, he expressed "extreme concern" about China's actions in the wake of Canada's arrest of a Huawei Technologies Co. executive on a US extradition request.

The travel advisory is the latest sign of escalating tensions between Canada and China.

The timing and swiftness of Schellenberg's sentence, and the inclusion of new evidence presenting him as a key player in a plan to ship 222kg of methamphetamine to Australia, has raised suspicion among observers.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is extremely concerned that China has chosen to "arbitrarily" apply the death penalty against a Canadian.

A lawyer for Schellenberg, Zhang Dongshuo, said his client would appeal. "We are in a very hard place".

The move appears to be the latest in an escalating feud that began with the arrest of the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada in early December at the request of the United States, which has accused her of violating sanctions. John Kamm, executive director of the Dui Hua Foundation, an organization that advocates for political prisoners in China, spoke at length to Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail, stating that 19 foreigners were executed for drug-related offenses between 2009 and 2015.

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Chinese state television said in an earlier report that Schellenberg argued he was a tourist visiting China and was framed by criminals.

Hua stressed that China "remains open to and welcomes people from all countries, including from Canada", as long as they obey the law. Within weeks, an appeals court suddenly reversed the earlier decision, saying the sentence was too lenient, and scheduled Monday's retrial with just four days' notice.

The man was sentenced on Monday for smuggling more than 200 kilograms of drugs to death.

Meng, the daughter of the company's founder, is likely to face extradition to the United States over allegations she helped Huawei dodge USA sanctions on Iran.

In a video posted to Global Times' website in December, editor Hu Xijin said if Canada extradited Meng to the US, "China's revenge will be far worse than detaining a Canadian". Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, were both arrested on vague national security allegations.

He said Beijing's handling of the case shows its refusal to recognize the concept of an independent judiciary, something unknown in China, where the ruling Communist Party controls the courts.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has slammed the latest ruling as driven by political considerations, meriting a collective response from friends and allies. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

"The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety overseas", the advisory read.

A former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said interrogating Kovrig about his time as a diplomat in China would violate Vienna Convention protections of residual diplomatic immunity that mean a country is not allowed to question someone on the work they did when they were a diplomat.

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