China seems to be escalating tensions with Canada over Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest as it has reviewed a Canadian national’s jail term and sentenced him to death. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was sentenced to 15-years in jail in November 2018 but, on Monday, a Dalian Intermediate People's Court in northeastern China said the sentence for drug smuggling was too lenient.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the ruling. "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," he said in a statement.
Schellenberg ‘s case was pulled up for review soon after the huge diplomatic row began between China and Canada over Meng Wanzhou’s detention in Vancouver over an international warrant issued by the U.S. China is said to have arrested at least thirteen Canadians since Wanzhou’s arrest.
According to the court records, Schellenberg was sent to Dalian in China by drug traffickers in November 2014 to set up the smuggling route of more than 200 kilograms of methamphetamine from the Chinese port city to Australia.
Schellenberg and an accomplice bought tools in an attempt to repackage the drugs before shipping them out in containers, according to Chinese prosecution. The Canadian was said to have made further arrangements, assessed the workload and decided on a shipping date. After his accomplice turned himself into the police, Schellenberg fled Dalian but was arrested in southern China on December 1, 2014, when he tried to fly to Thailand.
Schellenberg has ten days to appeal his verdict. Before the court announced its ruling on Monday, Schellenberg had told AFP, "I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist."
Canada has updated its travel advisory for its citizens traveling to China. The advisory states that citizens should "exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws." The U.S. too has issued a travel advisory for China.