© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The flags of Canada and China are set for the first China-Canada Economic and Financial Strategy Dialogue in Beijing, China, November 12, 2018. REUTERS / Jason Lee / Pool
By Yew Lun Tian and David Ljunggren
BEIJING / OTTAWA (Reuters) – A Chinese court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence of a Canadian for drug trafficking, a day before another court ruled on the case of another Canadian accused of espionage.
The legal process for the two Canadians comes as lawyers in Canada representing the detained CFO of telecommunications giant Huawei make a final push to convince a court not to extradite her to the United States, where she faces charges related to the violation of sanctions.
Robert Schellenberg was arrested for drug trafficking in 2014 and jailed for 15 years at the end of 2018.
He appealed, but a Dalian city court sentenced him to death in January 2019, a month after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on a US warrant. United, accused of misleading HSBC Holdings (NYSE 🙂 PLC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, potentially leading the bank to violate US economic sanctions.
Meng, who said she was innocent, fought her extradition from house arrest in Vancouver.
The High Court in northeastern Liaoning Province heard Schellenberg’s appeal against the death sentence in May last year and upheld the verdict on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters by phone after attending the hearing, Canada’s Ambassador to China Dominic Barton condemned the decision and called on China to grant leniency.
“It is no coincidence that this is happening right now, as the matter unfolds in Vancouver,” Barton said, referring to the case of Schellenberg and that of fellow Canadian, Michael Spavor.
China has rejected the suggestion that the cases of the Canadians in China are linked to Meng’s case in Canada, although China has warned of unspecified consequences unless Meng is released.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Businessman Spavor was detained in China days after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver. He was charged with espionage in June last year and went to trial in March.
Barton said a court in the northeastern city of Dandong on a river bordering North Korea is expected to deliver a verdict on Spavor on Wednesday.
Another Canadian, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, was also arrested in China days after Meng’s arrest and charged with espionage. His trial took place in March. His embassy had no news of the date of his conviction.
Chinese courts have a conviction rate of over 99%.
Some observers have said the likely convictions of Spavor and Kovrig may ultimately facilitate a deal in which they will be released and returned to Canada.
Since Meng’s arrest, China has sentenced at least three Chinese Canadians to death for drug offenses – Fan Wei https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-china-canada-drugs -idUKKCN2530OB in April 2019, and Ye Jianhui and Xu Weihong https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-china-canada-drugs-idUKKCN2530OB in August of last year.
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