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Politics

China court gives Canadian the death penalty as ties fray

Trudeau slams decision as arbitrary amid Huawei feud

The Intermediate People's Court of Dalian sentenced Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death on Jan. 14.   © Reuters

DALIAN, China -- A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a Canadian man to death in a drug-smuggling case, a move seen as pressure over Canada's arrest of a Huawei Technologies executive at Washington's behest.

The Dalian Intermediate People's Court cited evidence of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg's involvement in organized international drug crimes. It also ordered the forfeiture of all his assets.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized the decision. "It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply a death penalty," he told reporters.

Schellenberg attempted to illegally ship drugs from Dalian to Australia in November 2014, instructing accomplices to secure a shipping container and storage facility, according to the court.

But one informed the authorities, leading to Schellenberg's arrest in Guangzhou en route to Thailand. Police later found 222 kg of methamphetamines connected to the case.

The Dalian court sentenced Schellenberg in November to 15 years and a fine of 150,000 yuan ($22,200), since he was not the ringleader and the scheme never came to fruition. But prosecutors argued that he belonged to an international drug-smuggling operation and played a major role in the incident. In December, the Liaoning High Court ordered the Dalian court to retry him.

China has been turning up the pressure on Canada in the weeks since the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chairwoman Meng Wanzhou. The Globe and Mail reported this month that 13 Canadians, including a former diplomat, had been detained in the country since Meng's arrest, with at least eight released.

Still unclear is whether Canada will extradite Meng to the U.S., which had requested her arrest. Schellenberg's sentence may be Beijing's way of leaning on Ottawa not to do so.

A separate Huawei employee, since fired, was recently arrested in Poland on spying allegations.

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