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Ottawa formally requests clemency for Canadian sentenced to death in China

Last Updated Jan 15, 2019 at 11:37 am PST

FILE: Parliament Hill (iStock)

Canada has formally requested clemency for Robert Schellenberg who's sentenced to death in China

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The Trudeau government is seeking clemency for a Canadian sentenced to death in China amid growing tensions between the two countries.

The formal request for Robert Schellenberg was given to China’s ambassador to Canada.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada has always been opposed the death penalty.

“We believe it is inhumane and inappropriate, and wherever the death penalty is considered, with regard to a Canadian, we speak out against it — and indeed with regard to others. That is what we are doing here.”

Schellenberg was jailed in China in 2016 for drug smuggling, but was retried on Monday and sentenced to death after an appeals court in that country agreed with prosecutors who said he was punished too leniently.

His original sentence was 15 years.

Freeland, who calls this a complicated and difficult moment in Canada’s relationship with the People’s Republic, says she spoke with Schellenberg’s father to offer support and sympathy.

“It was a very emotional conversation,” she says.

Meanwhile the prime minister has been working the phones and seeking more international support in this tense dispute, speaking with the leaders of Argentina and New Zealand after receiving the backing of other countries like the U.S., the U.K. and Germany.

The tensions began with Canada arresting a Huawei executive in Vancouver at the request of the Americans, which then led to the arrests of two Canadians in China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

China and Canada have also since traded new travel advisories, warning their citizens of the risks of travelling to the other country.