Chinese court upholds death penalty for Canadian convict while Meng hearings continue

Chinese courts announced Tuesday that they have denied Canadian drug convict Robert Schellenberg’s appeal of his death sentence – during the same time the high-profile Meng Wanzhou extradition hearings are taking place in Vancouver.

The High People’s Court in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning said earlier this morning that Schellenberg – who was originally convicted of smuggling 222 kilograms of methamphetamine in November 2018 and sentenced to 15 years in prison – will continue to face the death penalty after initially being re-sentenced in January 2019, mere months after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver in December 2018.

“After the [January 2019] sentencing, Robert Schellenberg – the accused in the case – did not concur and appealed the decision,” a statement from Liaoning courts said. “Liaoning High People’s Court then formed a collegial tribunal [a Chinese three-member jury trial] according to law and openly assessed this case, confirming that the original trial was clear in its facts, sufficient in evidence and accurate in its sentencing and punishment.”

The Chinese court added it ensured Schellenberg’s rights by allowing Canadian consulate officials to attend the appeal, as well as providing two translators.

Canadian officials, however, has condemned the decision. In a statement, federal foreign affairs minister Marc Garneau called the death penalty “cruel and inhumane punishment” and vowed to continue its diplomatic efforts to secure clemency for Schellenberg.

“We oppose the death penalty in all cases, and condemn the arbitrary nature of Mr. Schellenberg’s sentence,” Garneau said in his statement. “Global Affairs Canada will continue to provide consular services to Mr. Schellenberg and his family. Due to provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be released.”

Canadian officials also confirmed that representatives from Australia, France, Germany and the United States attended the appeal hearing.

The re-sentencing of Schellenberg to receive the death penalty is one of several legal moves by Beijing since the arrest of Meng – Huawei Technologies’ CFO and daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei – viewed widely in the West as retaliatory moves. Two other Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, were also arrested soon after Meng was detained by Canadian officials, with both facing espionage charges.

Beijing has denied the arrests are linked to the Meng case.

Meng was arrested on a U.S. extradition request while connecting through Vancouver from Hong Kong to Mexico City. U.S. officials allege that Meng committed fraud, money laundering and violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran, among other charges.

The Meng extradition hearings in Vancouver is in its final two weeks of proceedings, and a decision is expected soon afterwards.