Tensions rise after China gives accused Canadian drug smuggler death penalty

businessman A Chinese tribunal in northeast Liaoning province announced Monday that it had sentenced Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to demise, overruling an earlier 2016 ruling that convicted him to 15 times in prison .( CCTV via AP)

A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian humankind to fatality Monday in a sudden retrial of a drug smuggling instance, increasing tensions between the two nations that have simmered since the three arrested of a top Chinese technology executive in Vancouver last month.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the convict handed down to Robert Lloyd Schellenberg and suggested that China was use its judicial system to pressure Canada to liberate Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

In his strongest remarks yet, Trudeau said “all countries around the world” should be concerned that Beijing is acting arbitrarily with its justice system.

“It is of extreme concern to us as both governments, as it should be to all our international pals and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily utilize a death penalty, ” Trudeau said.

Schellenberg was detained more than four years ago and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. But within weeks of Meng’s Dec. 1 arrest, an appeals court abruptly reversed that decision, saying the convict was too lenient, and scheduled Monday’s retrial with only four days’ notice.

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Schellenberg’s lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said attorneys had not introduced new indication to justify a heavier sentence during the course of its one-day trial, during which Schellenberg again maintained his innocence. He said his client currently has 10 days to appeal.

“This is a very unique case, ” Zhang told The Associated Press. He said the swiftness of the proceedings was unusual but declined to comment on whether it was related to Meng’s arrest.

The court said it found that Schellenberg was involved in an international drug-smuggling operating and was recruited to help smuggle more than 485 pounds of methamphetamine from a warehouse in the Chinese city of Dalian to Australia. A Chinese boy convicted of taking part in the same running was earlier given a suspended death sentence.

Fifty people, including Canadian diplomats and foreign and domestic media, attended Monday’s trial, special courts, in northeast Liaoning province, said in an online statement.

The court dedicated no indication that the death penalty could be commuted, but commentators said Schellenberg’s fate is likely to be drawn into diplomatic negotiations over China’s demand for the release of Meng.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, accused Beijing of playing “hostage politics, ” tweeting that the revised sentence was “a somewhat transparent am trying to pressure Canada to free the Huawei CFO.”

The Chinese media began publicizing Schellenberg’s case after Canadian authorities incarcerated Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the request of the United States, which craves her extradited to face charges that she devoted scam by misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

After Trudeau’s statement, Canada updated its traveling advisory for China, advising its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

Further intensifying the diplomatic rift between the two countries, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman that Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat taken into detention in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, was not eligible for benefits diplomatic immunity as Trudeau has maintained.

Kovrig, a Northeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group think tank, was on a leave of absence from the Canadian government at the time of his arrest last month. Hua Chunying told reporters that Kovrig is no longer a diplomat and entered China on an ordinary passport and business visa.

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“According to the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations and international law, “hes not” fully entitled to diplomatic immunity, ” Hua said at a daily Foreign Ministry briefing. “I suggest that the relevant Canadian person carefully study the Vienna Convention … before commenting on the cases, or they would only expose themselves to ridicule with such specious remarks.”

A senior Canadian government official said Chinese officials have been questioning Kovrig about his diplomatic work in China, which is a major reason why Trudeau is asserting diplomatic immunity. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly about the case, spoke on condition of anonymity.

A former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said interrogating Kovrig about his time as a diplomat in China would violate Vienna Convention protections of residual diplomatic immunity that mean a country is not allowed to question someone on the work they did when they were a diplomat.

“It’s difficult not to appreciate a link” between the case and Canada’s arrest of Meng, Saint-Jacques said.

Hua said the allegation that China arbitrarily detained Canadian citizens is “totally groundless.”

Days after Meng’s arrest, Kovrig and Canadian businessman Michael Spavor were detained on vague national security accusations. Meng is out on bail in Canada awaiting extradition proceedings that begin next month.

Canada has embarked on a campaign with allies to win the liberate of Kovrig and Spavor. The United States, Britain, European Union and Australia have issued statements in support. Trudeau called President Trump about their suit last week and the White House called the arrests “unlawful.”

Last week, Poland arrested a Huawei director and one of its own former cybersecurity experts and charged them with spying for China. The move came amid a U.S. campaign to exert pressure on its allies not to use Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications network equipment, over data security concerns.

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The arrests raised concerns over the safety of Poland’s nationals in China, although Hua brushed off such worries, accentuating China’s desire for the “sound and steady” development of relations with Poland.

“As long as the foreign citizens in China be conducted in conformity with Chinese laws and regulations, they are welcomed and their safety and freedom are guaranteed, ” Hua said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report .

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