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Chinese court upholds Canadian prisoner Robert Schellenberg's death sentence

Last Updated Aug 9, 2021 at 11:33 pm PDT

In this file image taken from Jan. 14, 2019, video footage run by China's CCTV, Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg attends his retrial at the Dalian Intermediate People's Court in Dalian, northeastern China's Liaoning province. A Chinese court has held an appeal hearing Thursday, May 9, 2019, for the Canadian who was sentenced to death for drug smuggling. No decision was immediately announced after the hearing. (CCTV via AP, File)

Robert Schellenberg was sentenced to prison in November 2018 after being convicted of drug smuggling

Schellenberg was sentenced to death abruptly in 2019, after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver's airport

BEIJING — A Chinese court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Robert Schellenberg, a Canadian whose sentence in a drug case was increased to death after an executive of tech giant Huawei was detained in Vancouver.

Schellenberg was sentenced to prison in November 2018 after being convicted of drug smuggling. He was abruptly resentenced to death in January 2019 while the Chinese government was trying to pressure Canada to release the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Ltd. Meng Wanzhou had been detained on U.S. charges related to possible dealings with Iran.

The Higher People’s Court of Liaoning Province rejected Schellenberg’s appeal and said in a statement the sentence was appropriate and the lower court’s procedures legal. It sent the case to the Chinese supreme court for review, as is required by law before any death sentences can be carried out.

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, has issued a statement denouncing the decision.

“We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment and will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg,” he writes.

“We oppose the death penalty in all cases, and condemn the arbitrary nature of Mr. Schellenberg’s sentence. Global Affairs Canada will continue to provide consular services to Mr. Schellenberg and his family.”

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The Chinese government also arrested a former Canadian diplomat, Michael Kovrig, and a Canadian entrepreneur, Michael Spavor, on unspecified spying charges in an apparent attempt to pressure Ottawa to release Meng.

Two other Canadians, Fan Wei and Xu Weihong, also were sentenced to death on drug charges in 2019 as relations between Beijing and Ottawa deteriorated.

The United States wants the Huawei executive, Meng, who is the company founder’s daughter, extradited to face charges she lied to banks in Hong Kong in connection with dealings with Iran that might violate trade sanctions.

A Canadian judge is due to hear final arguments over whether Meng should be extradited.

China also has reduced imports from Canada.

With files from Lisa Steacy