Published: Wed, January 16, 2019
Money | By Arnold Ball

Ottawa formally requests clemency for Canadian sentenced to death in China

Ottawa formally requests clemency for Canadian sentenced to death in China

Monday's death sentence for Canadian Robert Schellenberg for smuggling 222 kg of methamphetamines became the latest strain on ties.

"It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our worldwide friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply a death penalty, " Trudeau said.

"We expect at a level of principle that not only the death penalty should not be applied but also wherever people are in trouble the rule of law ought be applied fairly".

Schellenberg's sentence has further strained relations between China and Canada, already aggravated by the December arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, on a USA extradition request as part of an investigation into suspected violations of US trade sanctions.

China subsequently detained two Canadians on suspicion of endangering state security, but it has not linked their arrests to Meng's case.

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.

The move comes as China expresses "strong dissatisfaction" with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his criticism of the death sentence given to an alleged Canadian drug smuggler at a retrial.

In this image taken from a video footage run by China's CCTV, Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, 36, attends his retrial at the Dalian Intermediate People's Court in Dalian, northeastern China's Liaoning province on Monday.

In response to Canada's travel advisory, warning its citizens about "the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws" in China, Hua said Canadian citizens should be reminded never to engage in serious crimes such as drug smuggling in China.

China sentences Canadian to death, raises diplomatic tension
Schellenberg had originally been sentenced to 15 years in prison and a 150,000-yuan ($22,000) forfeiture in November. China is believed to execute more people annually than any other country, but is highly secretive about the number.

The Chinese government is urging citizens to "fully assess the risks of going to Canada for tourism" as diplomatic tensions between the two countries continue to escalate.

A lawyer for Schellenberg, Zhang Dongshuo, told Reuters his client would probably appeal against the death sentence.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying shot back on Tuesday, saying Trudeau should "respect the rule of law, respect China's judicial sovereignty, correct mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks". The Chinese media began republicizing Schellenberg's case after Meng's detention.

"We have very clearly outlined the case's facts and its seriousness", she told reporters.

"They discussed the detention and legal treatment of Canadian citizens in China".

Mr Zhang maintained that the existing evidence was not enough to prove Schellenberg smuggled the 222 kilograms of drugs to Dalian in 2014, nor involved in any global criminal gangs.

Describing the case as "highly politicized, " the human rights group Amnesty International urged that Schellenberg's sentence be revoked.

Asked whether it had concerns about due process, he said:"In China there is generally a problem of lack of transparency in trials".

The United States has denounced a death sentence imposed on a British Columbia man in China as "politically motivated", adding heft to Ottawa's effort to intensify worldwide pressure on Beijing to spare his life and to release two other detained Canadians.

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