China announces Canadian’s drug smuggling appeal as row continues over detained trio
- Court says Robert Lloyd Schellenberg’s appeal will be heard on Saturday
- It follows China’s detention of three Canadians since arrest of Huawei executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver
A Chinese court will hear an appeal by a Canadian citizen against a drug smuggling conviction on Saturday, mainland media reported, in a case that could further test the tense relations between Beijing and Ottawa.
The man is the fourth Canadian to be either detained or named in connection with a legal matter in China since the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on December 1.
China has previously announced the detention of two Canadian citizens on December 10, accusing them of activities “that endanger China’s national security”, and a Canadian teacher last week over a visa irregularity.
The high court in the northeast province of Liaoning announced in a brief online notice that Robert Lloyd Schellenberg will have a public appeal hearing on Saturday at 2pm.
Liaoning online news portal runsky.com said Schellenberg was found to have smuggled “an enormous amount of drugs” into China.
His age and further details of the case were not known, but government-run tabloid Global Times said on Thursday that he is Canadian.
The Canadian embassy in Beijing could not be reached to confirm the details on Thursday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not have further details about the case other than what was reported, and could not confirm the man’s identity. She added that if he is a foreign citizen, China would inform the relevant consular service.
“On the relations between China and Canada, I believe everyone is clear about the cause behind [the tension],” Hua said on Thursday in a daily briefing. “China has already expressed a strong position multiple times.”
The timing of the drugs case could intensify Sino-Canadian tensions after Canada’s allies called on China to release the three detained Canadians following Meng’s release on bail. Meng awaits a hearing for extradition to the United States.
Beijing was infuriated by Meng’s arrest, warning that Canada would face grave consequences if she was not released.
Hua said in a press briefing on Tuesday that the arrest in China of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig was “different in nature” to the arrest in Canada of Meng, and that China “resolutely refused and opposed” international calls for their release.
Their detentions were widely seen as retaliations for Canada’s part in arresting Meng at the request of the United States, but Hua said the Chinese authorities had taken “compulsory measures” because of the men’s illegal actions.
Kovrig is a former diplomat who is a senior adviser on Northeast Asia for International Crisis Group, while Spavor is a businessman based in the city of Dandong, in Liaoning, who facilitates visits to North Korea.
Last week, the Canadian embassy in China confirmed that teacher Sarah McIver had been detained for working illegally.
Chinese law states that anyone convicted of smuggling, selling, transporting or producing more than 1kg of opium, or 50 grams of methamphetamine or heroin, or a larger amount of other drugs, could face the death penalty.
China executed a Briton caught smuggling heroin in 2009, prompting a British outcry over what it said was the lack of any mental health assessment.
In 2014, a Japanese man convicted of drug trafficking was also executed despite the Japanese government’s disapproval.