Published: Mon, January 14, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

China says detained Canadian Michael Kovrig doesn't have diplomatic immunity

China says detained Canadian Michael Kovrig doesn't have diplomatic immunity

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was originally sentenced to 15 years in prison and a 150,000 yuan (US$22,000) forfeiture, could now potentially face the death penalty under China's zero-tolerance drug laws.

His case was then publicized by the Chinese press following the December 1 arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on us charges related to doing business with Iran. He was tried in 2016 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. But suddenly last month, an appeals court agreed with prosecutors who said the sentence was too lenient, and scheduled Monday's retrial with just four days' notice.

While the Canadian government says it's continuing to work towards securing the release of detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Hyder said he doesn't think Canadian businesspeople in China need to be fearful of being unlawfully detained or harassed by local authorities. China has executed foreign drug smugglers before: United Kingdom citizen Akmal Shaikh was put to death in 2009, despite protests from British authorities, for smuggling over four kilograms of heroin.

Schellenberg was told in court he has the right to appeal to Liaoning High Court within 10 days upon receiving the ruling, the court said in the second statement, adding that he was involved in organized global drug crimes.

Earlier on Monday, China's government dismissed Trudeau's statement that Kovrig enjoyed some form of diplomatic immunity. "In accordance with China's criminal law, the court found him guilty and sentenced him to death for drug trafficking and will confiscate all of his property".

"Many factors in this case raise serious questions of concern: particularly, that the retrial was rushed through so quickly and that state-run media drew such deliberate attention to the case", William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, told AFP.

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"That would harm Canadians, but it would also harm Chinese", he said. He said a friend recommended a man named Xu Qing as a translator.

China has not directly linked its arrest of the two Canadians with Meng's arrest in Canada.

At the retrial, prosecutors said that Schellenberg was heavily involved in a failed attempt to smuggle methamphetamines to Australia in pellets stuffed inside tires.

"As long as the foreign citizens in China abide by Chinese laws and regulations, they are welcomed and their safety and freedom are guaranteed", Hua said. They produced a witness, Xu Qing, to testify against the Canadian.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government would intercede on behalf of Schellenberg, as it is required to do anytime a Canadian faces the death penalty overseas.

China has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes.

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