'Hostage politics': Death sentence heightens China, Canada tensions

'Hostage politics': Death sentence heightens China, Canada tensions

Freeland also listed a number of allies Canada has called upon to speak out against Schellenberg's death sentence and to support its effort to free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians imprisoned in China last month.

Last week, Poland arrested a Huawei director and one of its own former cybersecurity experts and charged them with spying for China. Meng's detention infuriated Beijing which warned that Canada would face "serious consequences" if she was not quickly released. He was tried in 2016 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Mr Birmingham's comments echo those made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who also angered China by saying that the court "arbitrarily" sentenced Schellenberg to death.

The court said Schellenberg had conspired with others in an attempt to smuggle 222 kg (489.43 lb) of methamphetamine from China to Australia in late 2014.

Freeland said Ottawa had formally applied for clemency for Schellenberg, as it usually does in the cases of citizens condemned to death overseas.

Following Schellenberg's case, Canada issued a warning to its citizens travelling to China there could be a risk of "arbitrary enforcement" of laws.

The Chinese government is urging citizens to "fully assess the risks of going to Canada for tourism" as diplomatic tensions between the two countries continue to escalate.

"We're very pleased to have this support from the European Union which., like Canada, believes in the rule of law", she told reporters ahead of a three-day meeting of Trudeau's cabinet in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

According to his lawyer, the Canadian will have 10 days to appeal the sentence.

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"We urge the Canadian side to respect the rule of law, respect China's legal sovereignty, correct its mistakes, and stop making irresponsible remarks", Hua said.

The court in northeastern Liaoning province announced that it had given Robert Lloyd Schellenberg the death penalty after rejecting his plea of innocence and convicting him of being an accessory to drug smuggling.

Even if the court accepted all the charges, it should not have increased his sentence, given that facts the prosecution gave as new evidence had already been heard, he told Reuters.

St-Jacques said Canada should immediately call for a top-level meeting of foreign policy and security advisers from the two nations "to impress upon the Chinese side that they have to abide by global law".

"The bottom line is that the death penalty shouldn't be imposed for any crime other than intentional killing", said United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville.

China executes one or two foreigners every year - almost all for drug offences, according to John Kamm, director of the US-based Dui Hua Foundation rights group.

When asked if China typically listened to this type of request, Hua said the judiciary was not subject to "interference from administrative organs".

The rare decision to allow three foreign journalists, including one from AFP, to attend the hearing makes it "clear that the Chinese government wants (the) worldwide spotlight on this case".

The statement says the discussion included Freeland and Pompeo expressing "their concerns about the arbitrary detentions and politically motivated sentencing of Canadian nationals".

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