Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was set to begin a 15-year jail sentence for smuggling drugs. But the Canadian could now face the death penalty after a Chinese court ordered a retrial.
A Canadian man convicted of drug smuggling in China could face the death penalty after an appeals court found his initial 15-year jail sentence too lenient and ordered a retrial. The case threatens to add further strain to a tense diplomatic standoff between Beijing and Ottawa.
Judges on the Higher People's Court of the northeastern province of Liaoning, near North Korea, said Robert Lloyd Schellenberg's punishment for the 2016 conviction, which also included a 150,000-yuan (€19,000/$21,800) forfeiture, was "obviously inappropriate" given the severity of his crimes.
Evidence also showed he was not merely an accomplice but someone who had played an "important role" in smuggling drugs into China, the court added.
Authorities have not released any details of the accusations against Schellenberg. Ottawa said it was following the case closely.
China permits the death penalty in severe drug trafficking cases. In 2009, it executed Briton Akmal Shaikh for smuggling 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of heroin into the country.
Schellenberg's retrial could further undermine relations between China and Canada amid fallout over Ottawa's decision to arrest the chief financial officer of Chinese smartphone maker Huawei in early December.
Canada detained Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the United States, which has accused her of violating its sanctions against Iran. Beijing has called on Ottawa to release Meng, who denies any wrongdoing.
China has since arrested two Canadians — former diplomat Michael Kovrig and China-based businessman Michael Spavor — for allegedly endangering its national security. Both have yet to be released.
Earlier Saturday, Ottawa announced China had released a Canadian teacher whom it had accused of working in the country illegally. China and Canada had said McIver's case was not related to those of Kovrig and Spavor.
amp/cmk (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)