Canada has issued a travel warning, “High degree of caution”, to its citizens traveling to China, in the wake of a Canadian citizen, who was sentenced to death over drug trafficking charges on Monday.
An apex of China has on Monday, ruled Robert Lloyd Schellenberg’s 15-year life sentence to the death. A retrial of the suspect’s case was ordered after prosecutions claimed that new evidence relating suspect to drug trafficking operations have found.
According to The Guardian news reports, the court said, “The evidence is compelling and ample, and the criminal charges are well founded.” It added the suspect could appeal to the high court within ten days.
Canada’s foreign minister, late on Monday, revised its travel advisory for China to warn its (Canada) citizens about “the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws”.
The minister further added: “We continue to advise all Canadians traveling to China to exercise a high degree of caution.”
The court’s rule sentencing to death is expected to escalate diplomatic tensions between Canada and China. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa would continue to “engage strongly” with Beijing.
Trudeau said: “It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply the death penalty … as in this case.”
In a statement, Schellenberg’s aunt, Lauri Nelson-Jones, said, “Our thoughts are with Robert at this time. It is rather unimaginable what he must be feeling and thinking,” adding, “It is a horrific, unfortunate, heartbreaking situation.”
The court statement said Schellenberg, a former oilfield worker, has been detained since 2014 as he was a part of a failed attempt to smuggle around 225 kg of methamphetamine to Australia. And in December 2018, the court ordered a retrial of suspect’s case.
China director for Human Rights Watch Sophie Richardson, said: “Beijing will have to answer to the world why this particular case against a citizen of a particular country had to be retired at this particular moment.”
China researcher at Amnesty International William Nee, said: “This is all the more shocking given the rushed nature of the retrial, and the deliberate way in which the Chinese authorities drew attention to the case. When they actually invite the international press corps, it’s very unusual and a good sign the Chinese authorities sought to highlight the case for a political messaging purpose.”
Donald Clarke, a professor of law at the George Washington University Law School and expert in Chinese law, in statement, wrote: “The case appears to reinforce the message, previously suggested by the detentions of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, that China views the holding of human hostages as an acceptable way to conduct diplomacy.”