'Hostage' diplomacy: Canadian's death sentence in China sets worrying tone, experts say

'Hostage' diplomacy: Canadian's death sentence in China sets worrying tone, experts say

'Hostage' diplomacy: Canadian's death sentence in China sets worrying tone, experts say

A Canadian citizen appealing a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking had his punishment changed to the death sentence on Monday, a decision that has exacerbated a diplomatic row between Beijing and Ottawa.

The court gave no indication that the death penalty could be commuted, but observers said Schellenberg's fate is likely to be drawn into diplomatic negotiations over China's demand for Meng's release.

Schellenberg was first tried for drug smuggling in the Dalian court in March 2016 but it was not until more than two years later that the court handed down a verdict, convicting and jailing him for 15 years in November 2018, the Post report said. In December, a higher court ordered a retrial as prosecutors claimed they had emerging evidence pointing to Schellenberg's role as a more central player, giving the defence little more than two weeks to prepare.

The Dalian court said Schellenberg, who was detained in December 2014, played a "key part" in an worldwide drug trafficking syndicate.

The Canadian can appeal his sentence within the next 10 days to higher Chinese courts. Schellenberg was retried on global drug smuggling charges in Dalian Intermediate People's court yesterday and was subsequently given the death penalty.

In an opinion piece on January 9, the Chinese ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye effectively confirmed that the detention of two Canadian academics was in response to Meng's arrest, raising further questions around Schellenberg's case.

Last week, Trudeau accused China of "arbitrarily and unfairly" detaining former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business consultant Michael Spavor, who were rounded up nine days after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Schellenberg has denied all charges against him and says he has been framed.

Mr.Schellenberg's sentencing appears to be feeding into the high-intensity "trade war" between Beijing and Washington, masking the broader US goal of undermining China's rise.

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The death sentence adds to the tension between the two countries following the arrest in Canada last month of a top executive from telecommunications giant Huawei, infuriating Beijing.

But China responded on Tuesday with a travel warning, saying a Chinese citizen has recently been "arbitrarily detained by law enforcement authorities because of a request by a third country". Among the unusual features of the proceedings, according to Zhang: the public nature of Schellenberg's December appeal, the swift scheduling of the retrial and the fact that the court announced its sentence just one hour after the trial ended Monday.

China is known for handing out harsh sentences for drug crimes including the death penalty when substantial amounts of illicit substances are involved.

Justin Trudeau said the death penalty should be of "extreme concern" to Canada's friends and allies.

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.

"It will have no impact in terms of how the Canadian government deals with the Meng case", he said.

However, she also stressed that relationship will continue when asked if Canada might consider taking stronger measures against China for what some foreign policy experts have described as "hostage diplomacy".

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have reportedly detained ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor on charges of threatening national security.

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