Canada warns of China travel risk after death sentence to citizen

Canada warns of China travel risk after death sentence to citizen

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg
This photograph taken and released by the Intermediate Peoples' Court of Dalian on Jan 14, 2019 shows Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg (C) during his retrial on drug charges. (Photo: AFP/Intermediate Peoples' Court of Dalian)

OTTAWA: Canada is warning citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution" when travelling to China after a Canadian man was sentenced to death on drug trafficking charges.

The revised advisory cautioned travellers of the "risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws," and noted that the "safety and security situation could change with little notice".

READ: Chinese media rejects suggestion death for Canadian drug smuggler a pressure tactic

The update came hours after a Chinese court on Monday (Jan 14) sentenced Canadian citizen Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death on drug trafficking charges after his previous 15-year prison sentence was deemed too lenient.

Schellenberg, 36, had appealed against the court's original verdict.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Beijing of "arbitrarily" using capital punishment, deepening a diplomatic rift between the two countries.

The sentence comes against the backdrop of Beijing's anger over the arrest in Canada of a top executive from telecom giant Huawei last month on a US extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.

Chinese authorities later detained two Canadian nationals - a former diplomat and a business consultant - on suspicion of endangering national security, a move seen as retaliation for the Huawei executive's arrest.

Ottawa has called for the Canadians' immediate release, with the backing of the US, EU and several western nations.

ANOTHER APPEAL

On Tuesday, Schellenberg's lawyer said he will appeal the verdict, arguing that the court should not have increased his sentence given no new evidence had been introduced during his retrial.

Zhang Dongshuo said his client's defence has centred around an argument there was insufficient evidence to prove he was part of a drug syndicate, or that he was involved in the smuggling of methamphetamines.

But even if the court accepted all prosecution charges, it should not have increased his sentence, given that facts the prosecution presented as new evidence had already been heard in court, Zhang told Reuters.

"Chinese law stipulates that during an appeal, only if new evidence is discovered and retried can there be an increase in the severity of a sentence," Zhang said.

"They are not new facts so you cannot increase the severity of the sentence."

Schellenberg had faced a number of charges in Canada related to drug possession and drug trafficking, according to Canadian court records.

One foreign expert on Chinese law questioned the swift verdict in Schellenberg's retrial, given the political backdrop. The death penalty was handed down at the end of a one-day hearing.

"I do not know whether Schellenberg is guilty," Donald Clarke of George Washington University said in an online post.

"But I do know that before Meng Wanzhou's detention, the original trial court heard the case and then thought about it for over two and half years before deciding that a sentence of 15 years in prison was an appropriate punishment."

Source: Agencies/mn/jt

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