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In China, a Canadian faces the death penalty for drug trafficking. His case is associated with the detention of a top manager of Huawei in Canada

Human rights activists consider a man the first random victim of a political conflict between countries.

Canadian Embassy in Beijing. Getty Photos

On January 14, a new trial began in China against Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg (Robert Lloyd Schellenberg), who in 2016 was sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking. The court ruled that it was too soft a punishment for the crime of a man, and now he faces the death penalty.

The case against Schellenberg takes place against the backdrop of the detention in Vancouver of the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei Technologies Meng Wangzhou in December 2018. Western political analysts and human rights activists believe that the court is an attempt by the Chinese authorities to force the Canadian government to make concessions in the Huawei case and not to extradite Wangzhou to the United States. Supporters of this version reinforce it by the fact that in December in China they detained two more Canadians suspected of “threatening national security.”

Potential victim of political conflict

In December 2018, a Chinese court ruled to review the sentence of Schellenberg in a drug trafficking case. In 2014, he was detained and convicted, but four years later, the prosecutor’s office called for a more harsh sentence. As pointed out byThe New York Times, for Schellenberg this can mean either an increase in the prison term or the death penalty.

Such a tough stance of the prosecution is based on the fact that Schellenberg did not just sell drugs, but allegedly participated in a major international scheme for the sale of prohibited substances. Prosecutors believe he tried to supply 200 kilograms of methamphetamine from China to Australia. At the same time, Schellenberg himself denied guilt, pointing out that the case against him was fabricated.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In his article on the Schellenberg case, the Canadian newspaper The National Post writes that a man could become a “pawn in a battle” provoked by the arrest of Huawei’s top manager.[/perfectpullquote]

Relations between Canada and China escalated in December 2018 amid the detention in Vancouver of the financial director of one of the largest telecommunications companies Huawei Technologies Meng Wangzhou. The US authorities suspect it of violating trade sanctions against Iran and demand extradition. The Chinese government opposed it, calling the incident a “violation of human rights.”

A few days after the detention of Wangzhou in China, two Canadians were arrested: former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor . The latter is known for creating a travel organization for traveling to the DPRK and a personal acquaintance with the head of state – Kim Jong-un.

At the time of writing, a month after the detention of men, the reasons for the arrest were almost not disclosed. Officially, they are suspected of “threatening national security” —this wording usually implies espionage. Their whereabouts are unknown, and all requests from lawyers and family members for contact with them are denied.

Canadian traveler case

“Obviously, the Chinese courts are not independent, and can systematically obey the wishes of the Communist Party,” said researcher and human rights activist at Amnesty International William Nee. Professor of Chinese law at George Washington University Donald Clark also sees a political motive for what is happening.

According to him, in China rarely begin re-trials on already resolved cases: “Obviously, the fate of Schellenberg is weakly connected with his real guilt or innocence.” Prior to his arrest, Schellenberg worked at the Athabasca oil field in his homeland and spent the accumulated money on travels in Asia. Shortly before traveling to China, a Canadian spent a long time in Thailand, regularly keeping in touch with his relatives by telephone.

People’s Court in Dalian, where a second trial against Schellenberg is taking place Photo by Reuters

After his arrest in 2014, the man was detained for 15 months, waiting for the beginning of the trial, and then another 32 months before the verdict was announced. In December 2018, the prosecutor’s office requested a review of cases in connection with the new information.

As the prosecutors explained, further study of the Canadian case showed that his participation in the scheme of drug trafficking is much larger than previously thought. As evidence, the prosecutor’s office presented a witness named Xu Qing, who allegedly knew about Canadian criminal schemes. In a conversation with the French edition of AFP, Schellenberg said that it was Qing who dragged him into a kind of “scheme”, adding that he was engaged in drug trafficking.

The Chinese authorities have rejected the link between the detention of two Canadians and the repeated trial of Schellenberg with political confrontation because of the top manager Huawei. Amid the unfolding confrontation, the Chinese ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, accused the Canadian authorities of “double standards” and pursuing a policy of “white superiority” over other races.

According to The New York Times, citing the humanitarian organization Dui Hua, which monitors the violation of human rights in China, from 2009 to 2015 in the country executed 19 foreigners for drug-related crimes.

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