Canadian to appeal drug smuggling charges in China amid Beijing-Ottawa spat

A Chinese court will hear an appeal Saturday from a Canadian man reportedly convicted of drug smuggling -- t...

Posted: Dec 28, 2018 12:15 PM
Updated: Dec 28, 2018 12:15 PM

A Chinese court will hear an appeal Saturday from a Canadian man reportedly convicted of drug smuggling -- the latest case to test relations between Ottawa and Beijing following the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver this month.

Meng is currently on bail pending an extradition hearing to the US on charges of violating sanctions against Iran. Since her arrest, multiple Canadian citizens have been detained in China even as both governments refused to link the cases.

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The Liaoning High People's Court said in a statement Wednesday that a Canadian man it identified as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg would appear before it this weekend.

While the statement described the hearing as an appeal, it is currently unclear when Schellenberg was originally convicted or what his sentence was.

A government-run news portal said Schellenberg had smuggled "an enormous amount of drugs" into China.

In a statement, Maegan Graveline, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada, said the department "has been following this case for several years and has been providing consular assistance to the Canadian citizen since they were first detained in Liaoning, China."

"We will continue to provide consular services to them and their family," she told CNN.

Asked about the Canadian's detention at a regular press conference Thursday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was "not aware of the specifics of the case."

China severely punishes those caught smuggling or trafficking drugs, including foreigners. Anyone found with more than 50 grams (1.76 ounces) of a controlled substance can face the death penalty.

In 2009, Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen convicted of carrying up to 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of heroin, was executed by lethal injection despite fierce protests from the UK government and his family, who said he suffered from a mental disorder and was tricked into carrying the drugs.

According to China.org.cn, a government-run website, at least 12 foreign drug dealers have been executed in China since 2000 -- "and other foreigners were sentenced to death for other serious crimes."

China remains the world's top executor, according to international monitors, though the country does not publish detailed statistics.

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