China sentences Robert Schellenberg, Canadian drug suspect, to death

The ruling is likely to deepen a diplomatic rift between Ottawa and Beijing

A general view of the Intermediate People's Court of Dalian, where the trial for Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian citizen on drug smuggling charges, will be held, in Liaoning province, China January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.
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A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian man to death on drug trafficking charges on Monday after his previous 15-year prison sentence was deemed too lenient, a ruling likely to deepen a diplomatic rift between Ottawa and Beijing.

A court in the northeast city of Dalian said following a day-long retrial that it "completely rejects" the defence put forward by Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who is 36.

"I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist," the Canadian national said in his final statement before the verdict was handed down.

The sentencing comes against the backdrop of the Chinese government's anger over the arrest in Canada – on a US extradition request – of a top executive from telecom giant Huawei last month.

Chinese authorities have since detained two Canadian nationals – a former diplomat and a business consultant – on suspicion of endangering national security, a move seen as an act of retaliation over the Huawei executive's arrest.


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Mr Schellenberg, who was detained in December 2014, is accused of playing a central role in drug smuggling and of potential involvement in international organised crime.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and a 150,000 yuan ($22,000) forfeiture in November. But following an appeal, a high court in Liaoning ruled in December that the sentence was too lenient given the severity of his crimes.

In an opening statement, Mr Schellenberg said he had come to China after travelling through Southeast Asia, including Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

He said a friend recommended a man named Xu Qing as a translator and he was swept up in what has turned out to be an international drug trafficking syndicate.

"This is a case about Xu Qing, he is an international drug smuggler and a liar," Mr Schellenberg told the court, accusing Xu of setting him up.