Robert Schellenberg: Chinese court upholds death sentence against Canadian citizen

In November 2018, Robert Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years and resentenced to death in January 2019 after a one-day retrial. Credit: PA

A Chinese court has upheld a death sentence against a Canadian citizen for drug smuggling.

Robert Schellenberg has been detained since 2014, when he was accused of trying to smuggle 225kg of methamphetamine from China to Australia.

Mr Schellenberg has maintained his innocence, and said he went to China as a tourist.In November 2018, he was sentenced to 15 years in jail, but, the following year, an appeal court said the term was too lenient, leading to a retrial and a death sentence.

That decision came after Canada arrested senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on fraud allegations.

On Tuesday morning, The Higher People’s Court of Liaoning Province in Shenyang rejected his appeal against the death sentence, as evidence against him was "sufficient".

“The conviction was accurate, the sentence was appropriate, and the trial proceedings were in accordance with the law," the court said in reference to the earlier trial.

The case has now been sent to the Chinese supreme court for review, as is required by law before death sentences can be carried out.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou Credit: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP

Speaking to reporters, Dominic Barton, the Canadian ambassador to Beijing, criticised the ruling as "cruel and inhumane".

"We condemn the verdict in the strongest possible terms and call on China to grant Robert clemency," he said.

Two other Canadians, Fan Wei and Xu Weihong, also were sentenced to death on drug charges in separate cases in 2019 as relations between Beijing and Ottawa deteriorated.Mr Barton added it was "no coincidence" the verdict was released while an extradition battle involving Meng Wanzhou was ongoing in Canada.

The daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecoms company was arrested at Vancouver airport on a US warrant in late 2018 over allegations she committed fraud by misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

The US wants the Huawei executive extradited to face charges she lied to banks in Hong Kong in connection with the dealings with Iran that might violate trade sanctions.A Canadian judge will hear final arguments in the next few weeks over whether Ms Meng, who has been living under house arrest in Vancouver, should be extradited.

The Chinese government has criticised the case as a political motivated attempt to hamper the country’s industry development.