China sentenced a Canadian man to death in the latest escalation of the countries' feud over Huawei

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  • A court in Dalian, China, sentenced a 36-year-old Canadian man to death on charges of international drug trafficking on Monday.
  • Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was detained in China in 2014 and sentenced to 15 years last November, before a Chinese court said his sentence was too lenient and retried him.
  • The death sentence comes a month into China and Canada's diplomatic feud over Ottawa's arrest and detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
  • Schellenberg says he was framed.

A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian man to death on charges of drug smuggling on Monday in the latest escalation of Beijing and Ottawa's diplomatic feud over the detention of Chinese tech giant Huawei's CFO.

The Dalian Intermediate People's Court in Liaoning, a province in northeastern China, handed down Robert Lloyd Schoenberg's judgment at his retrial on Monday, it said in a statement on its website.

Schellenberg, 36, was detained in China in 2014. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of smuggling drugs last November. Schellenberg says he is innocent.

In late December, a Dalian court bolstered his charge to international drug trafficking, deemed his punishment to be too light, and called for a retrial.

china dalian court schellenberg

Chinese prosecutors accused Schellenberg of trying to smuggle 222 kg of methamphetamine in a car tire liner from China to Australia, and listed a series of phone conversations implicating him.

Schellenberg says he was framed.

He told the court on Monday, according to Globe and Mail China correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe: "I am not a drug smuggler. I am not a drug user. I am a normal person."

The maximum penalty for international drug trafficking in China is the death sentence.

Schellenberg's December hearing came three weeks into a diplomatic feud between China and Canada over the arrest and detention of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei and daughter of the company's founder.

Canada made the arrest at the US' request. Meng is suspected of violating US sanctions on Iran, and of misleading banks and investors regarding a second company sold to Iran.

Canada briefly detained Meng before allowing her to await extradition to the US in a multi-million dollar home she owns in the country. 

Meng Wanzhou

Since Meng's arrest, China detained two more Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, on vague claims that they threaten Chinese national security.

Experts have directly linked these cases to China's Huawei dispute.

Donald Clarke, a China law expert at the George Washington University Law School, described the Canadian detainees — including Schellenberg — as "hostages."

He wrote on Lawfare last Friday that Schellenberg's "case appears to reinforce the message, previously suggested by the detentions of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, that China views the holding of human hostages as an acceptable way to conduct diplomacy."

china canada trudeau xi

Lauri Nelson-Jones, Schellenberg's aunt, told The Globe and Mail ahead of Monday's retrial: "There's no way they are not using him as a pawn."

"That's someone's kid. That's someone's brother and nephew," she added. "And to just say: 'We're going to think about ending his life now over this' – it's not warranted. It's not deserved. It's heartbreaking."

China's ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, accused Ottawa of exhibiting "Western egotism and white supremacy" in the case of Meng's arrest last week.

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