China sentences Canadian man to death in drug smuggling case

China denies detained Canadian has diplomatic immunity

His sentencing came during a one-day retrial on Monday.

A Canadian man accused of drug smuggling in China faced a new trial Monday after an upper court called for a harsher sentence in a case that could further strain ties between Beijing and Ottawa.

While reviewing the appeal, Liaoning province's high court argued that the Canadian had been part of an global drug smuggling operation and ruled that the initial punishment was too lenient, considering the crimes that he had committed.

When pressed on details, he frequently said he could not remember and to refer to a written statement for details, including when Schellenberg questioned him about 180,000 yuan he was purportedly given.

The 36-year-old said he was a tourist in China when he was duped by a man he believed was a translator and got caught in the scheme to smuggle methamphetamines, the Globe and Mail reported.

"It's clear that Chinese courts are not independent, and by systematic design, courts can be influenced by Communist Party officials", William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, told AFP. I am not a drug user.

"If the Chinese government has an innocent explanation for all the unusual features of this case, I hope it will provide it-otherwise, I don't know how to understand this case other than as a simple threat", he said.

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Schellenberg was detained in 2014 and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016 on charges of being an accessory to drug smuggling.

His case was then publicized by the Chinese press following the December 1 arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on USA charges related to doing business with Iran.

China has expressed outrage at Meng's arrest and has warned Canada of "severe consequences" if she were not released.

In earlier interviews, Schellenberg's aunt Lauri Nelson-Jones said she was concerned that increasing tensions between Beijing and Ottawa could mean a tougher sentence for her nephew. "We can only guess, but that is definitely what it looks like, and that is incredibly worrisome".

In the weeks following her seizure, Chinese authorities detained two Canadians living in China on suspicion of national security crimes. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized China for "not respecting the principles of diplomatic immunity" in Kovrig's arrest.

In what is believed to be a retaliation to Meng's arrest, Chinese authorities detained former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who now works for a foreign think tank, and businessman Michael Spavor days later.

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