Death penalty for Canadian escalates China-Canada tensions
TORONTO – The Associated Press
A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian to death on Jan. 14 in a sudden retrial of his drug smuggling case, while another Canadian man has been denied diplomatic immunity, ratcheting up the tensions following Canada’s arrest of a top Chinese technology executive last month.
The Liaoning provincial court in northeastern China reversed a 15-year prison term for Robert Lloyd Schellenberg from a November 2018 sentencing. Schellenberg first went on trial in 2016.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the proceeding, suggesting that China was using its judicial system to pressure Canada over the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
In his strongest comments yet, Trudeau said “all countries around the world” should be concerned that Beijing is acting arbitrarily with its justice system.
“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 a death penalty,” Trudeau said.
Further escalating the diplomatic rift between the two countries, a Chinese spokeswoman said earlier on Jan. 14 that Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat taken into custody in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, was not eligible for diplomatic immunity as Trudeau has maintained.
A senior Canadian government official said Chinese officials have been questioning Kovrig about his diplomatic work in China, which is a major reason why Trudeau is asserting diplomatic immunity. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kovrig, a Northeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group think tank, was on a leave of absence from the Canadian government at the time of his arrest last month.