A Chinese court yesterday adjourned a hearing on a Canadian man’s appeal against his death sentence for drug smuggling without a decision in a case that has deepened a diplomatic spat between Beijing and Ottawa.
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, 36, was in January sentenced to death after a court deemed his previous 15-year prison sentence too lenient.
His appeal hearing came one day after Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, appeared in court in Canada to fight a US extradition bid that triggered the diplomatic storm.
The Liaoning High People’s Court said in a statement that “all procedural rights of appellant Schellenberg were guaranteed in accordance with the law.”
The trial has adjourned and the court would “select a day or time to pronounce the sentence,” it said without specifying.
Schellenberg’s case is seen as potential leverage for Meng, who was arrested on a US extradition request related to Iran sanctions contraventions — a link that Beijing has repeatedly denied.
Following the Huawei executive’s arrest in December last year, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, in what observers saw as retaliation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that China had “chosen to arbitrarily” sentence Schellenberg to death.
His government has pleaded for clemency.
Ottawa on Wednesday said that it was “extremely concerned that China has chosen to apply the death penalty, a cruel and inhumane punishment.”
Canadian officials were expected to attend yesterday’s hearing.
Schellenberg was in November last year originally sentenced to 15 years in prison and a 150,000 yuan (US$22,007) forfeiture.
However, following an appeal, the Liaoning court in December ruled that the sentence was too lenient given the severity of his crimes.
About a month later, his sentence was changed to capital punishment.
China has executed foreigners for drug-related crimes in the past, including a Japanese national in 2014, a Philippine woman in 2013 and a Briton in 2009.
Last week, another Canadian, Fan Wei (范威), was sentenced to death for drug trafficking in a separate case in southern China.
Kovrig and Spavor have been denied access to lawyers and are only allowed monthly consular visits.
Days after Canada launched the extradition process against Meng in March, China announced that it suspected Kovrig of spying and stealing state secrets.
It alleged fellow Canadian Spavor had provided him with intelligence.
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