China Says Detained Ex-Canadian Diplomat Has No Diplomatic Immunity

Cheryl Sanders
January 14, 2019

A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a Canadian national Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death for his alleged involvement in smuggling drugs amid increasing tensions between Canada and China over the recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday evening that the Intermediate People's Court in Dalian tried Schellenberg "in accordance with the law" and sentenced him to death for drug trafficking.

Kovrig was detained by China's spy agency on suspicion of "activities endangering national security" on December 10, days after Canada arrested a Huawei Technologies Co. executive as part of a US -led extradition effort.

After his arrest, Schellenberg was held for 15 months before his first trial, and it took an additional 32 months before a court declared him guilty and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for his role in a failed attempt to smuggle drugs from China to Australia. But last month an appeals court agreed with prosecutors who said the sentence was too lenient.

Beijing and Ottawa have been locked in a diplomatic tussle since the December 1 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the United States, where she is accused of fraud related to Iranian sanctions violations.

Schellenberg will have the right to appeal the sentence, according to Reuters.

Chinese authorities have since detained two Canadian nationals - a former diplomat and a business consultant - on suspicion of endangering national security.

Trudeau's statement suggested Kovrig carried a diplomatic passport while on his sabbatical - which is possible if authorised by Canada's foreign ministry - but Hua said he was in China on an ordinary travel document with a business visa.

William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, expressed similar sentiments to the Hong Kong-based newspaper.

She said she was trying to contact his immediate family to find out if they knew about the court judgment.

He said a friend recommended him a man named Xu Qing as a translator and he was swept up in what has turned out to be an global drug trafficking syndicate. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was concerned that China had decided "arbitrarily" to apply the death sentence in the case.

China has vehemently protested Meng's arrest in Canada and vowed to retaliate. They produced a witness, Xu Qing, to testify against the Canadian. At a news briefing Friday, a spokesman for the ministry, Lu Kang, said critics should not undermine Chinese law for political purposes.

Schellenberg was again found guilty of taking part in an global drug-smuggling ring, according to the Wall Street Journal. British resident Akmal Shaikh was executed in 2009 for smuggling heroin.

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