China yesterday vociferously defended a court's decision to impose the death penalty on a convicted Canadian drug smuggler, escalating a diplomatic row that experts say has descended into a high-stakes game of "hostage politics".
The Liaoning provincial court in northeastern China announced the death sentence for 36-year-old Robert Lloyd Schellenberg on Monday.
If Schellenberg loses on appeal, the death sentence will be reviewed by the Supreme People's Court, which overturns sentences only about 10 per cent of the time, he said.
"It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our global friends and allies, that China has chosen to arbitrarily apply the death penalty", Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday in response to Schellenberg's sentence.
At the center of growing strains between China and the United States was the recent arrest of a top executive at Chinese technology giant Huawei [HWT.UL] in Canada at the request of US authorities. The organization called on Trudeau to press the Chinese government abandon any plans to carry out Schellenberg's death sentence.
Late on Monday, Canada's foreign ministry updated its travel advisory for China to warn citizens about "the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws".
Schellenberg was detained in 2014 and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016 on charges of being an accessory to drug smuggling.
The friction between Canada and China has been steadily increasing since Canadian authorities took Meng into custody in Vancouver and Chinese officials subsequently arrested Canadians Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, for allegedly endangering national security.
Hua told reporters in Beijing that China expresses "our strong dissatisfaction with this" and is cautioning its citizens about travelling to Canada.
"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 the death penalty as it is in this case facing a Canadian", Mr. Trudeau said on Monday, after the verdict was announced.
"We should draw the conclusion that the Chinese government very obviously wants us to draw: this is a political case, and Schellenberg's fate will have nothing to do with his individual guilt or innocence".
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China Sentences Canadian Man to Death for Drug Trafficking
Days after Meng's arrest , Kovrig and Canadian businessman Michael Spavor were detained on vague national security allegations. A Chinese person convicted of involvement in the same operation was earlier given a suspended death sentence.
China-Canada ties turned icy in early December after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, was arrested in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant.
The Schellenberg family released a statement Monday asking the Canadian government to protect its citizens.
Canada has asked China's ambassador to Canada for clemency in Schellenberg's case, said Freeland, adding that she had "a very emotional conversation" with Schellenberg's father on Monday.
However, the court deemed the quantum of punishment for Schellenberg was way too lenient given the grave nature of his crime and ordered a retrial of the case.
Analysts say that the arrest of Ms. Meng, who is on bail but could be extradited to the US, was to announce Washington's firm intent to retard China's hi-tech Made-in-China 2025 programme, of which the underlying Huawei-led 5G technology is essential. "Schellenberg's trial is not a 'political verdict, '" the piece said.
It is unclear what he did between his release from prison - set for mid-2013 - and his involvement in the Chinese drug case.
The man was sentenced on Monday for smuggling more than 200 kilograms of drugs to death.
"What's unusual is how this case shifted from extremely slow handling to suddenly rapid fire movement", said Margaret Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall University.
In recent weeks, the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission - a regulatory body that oversees about 100 government-run companies - has told some firms to only take secure, company-issued laptops meant for overseas use if traveling is necessary, the people said.
"Personally, I don't see a connection between these cases and Meng Wanzhou", he said.