Canadian's appeal in drug case to be heard in Chinese court

OTTAWA — A Canadian charged with smuggling drugs will be in court for an appeal on Saturday, China's state media say.

The Global Times, an English-language publication of the official People's Daily, reported Thursday that Robert Lloyd Schellenberg's case is in an appeal phase, after he was previously convicted by a Chinese court.

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"Global Affairs Canada has been following this case for several years and has been providing consular assistance to the Canadian citizen since they were first detained in Liaoning, China," said Robert Walker, a spokesman for Canada's foreign ministry. "We will continue to provide consular services to them and their family."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in a daily briefing Thursday that she didn't know much about the case, suggesting it's not related to the arrests of two other Canadians on national-security grounds earlier this month.

"I am not aware of the specifics of this case and I would refer you to the competent authority," she said, according to an English transcript posted to the ministry website. But, she added: "As to the diplomatic tensions between China and Canada, I think you are very clear about the reason for that. I have made clear China's solemn position on it many times before."

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were picked up shortly after Canada arrested Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, on an American request for her to face fraud charges.

Chinese officials haven't called those arrests acts of retaliation but they have pointedly compared the cases, insisting that Kovrig and Spavor have been detained in accordance with Chinese laws but that Meng's arrest was illegal.

The Huawei chief financial officer has been released on $10-million bail but isn't allowed to leave the Vancouver area. The extradition process could take years.

The Global Times has been instrumental in cranking up tensions over Meng's arrest. Editor Hu Xijin posted a video earlier in December warning that "China will definitely take retaliatory measures against Canada" if she isn't fully freed. The Global Times has also reported on Chinese consumer boycotts of North American goods — especially iPhones sold by Huawei's competitor Apple — and on Huawei's determination to get through a difficult time by relying on its "wolf spirit" corporate culture.

In Schellenberg's case, the paper reports that Chinese criminal law calls for minimum sentences of 15 years for drug trafficking, and that a British citizen was executed in 2009 for smuggling four kilograms of heroin.

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