Canada Issues 'High Caution' Travel Warning For China After Citizen's Death Sentence

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"We express our strong dissatisfaction with this", Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.

Meanwhile, much speculation suggests that the new sentence is retaliation for the detention of a top executive within China's Huawei technology giant, in which the Huawei CFO, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Vancouver back in early December on suspicion of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

She was detained at the request of the United States, which is seeking her extradition for allegedly violating its sanctions on Iran.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs blasted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's "irresponsible remarks" after he criticized the death sentence imposed on 36-year-old Robert Lloyd Schellenberg.

The Canadian, who claims to be innocent and accuses China of framing him, appealed his case - but his appeal apparently backfired as the Chinese prosecutors considered his sentence too lenient and demanded a harsher one.

The court gave no indication that the death penalty could be commuted, but observers said Schellenberg's fate is likely to be drawn into diplomatic negotiations over China's demand for the release of Meng.

A death sentence anywhere in the world is a travesty but it is more so in places like China, where fair-trial rights remain at best elusive, said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch.

"China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply the death penalty in cases facing, as in this case facing a Canadian", he said.

When pressed on details, he frequently said he could not remember and had to refer to a written statement, including when Schellenberg questioned him about 180,000 yuan he was purportedly given.

Schellenberg was told in court he had the right to appeal to Liaoning High Court within ten days upon receiving the ruling, the intermediate court said in a second statement. The case resurfaced this month, when the Chinese government took the rare step of inviting foreign media to attend his appeal hearing - prompting speculation that Beijing wanted to use Schellenberg's case to exert pressure on Ottawa. He received a 15-year sentence at that time. After his accomplice turned himself into the police, Schellenberg fled Dalian and was arrested in southern China on December 1, 2014, when he tried to fly to Thailand, the court said.

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Beijing has repeatedly denied any links to Canada's arrest of the Huawei executive.

"It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our global friends and allies, that China has chosen to arbitrarily apply death penalties in cases, as in this case facing a Canadian", Trudeau told a press conference.

Canada's foreign ministry issued a travel warning late Monday to its citizens in China over "the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws".

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

"What's unusual is how this case shifted from extremely slow handling to suddenly rapid fire movement through the courts", said Margaret Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall University.

Huawei hasalso faced suspicions in the United States and several other countries that its equipment could be used by China for spying. A third Canadian detained in December, a teacher named Sarah McIver, was returned to Canada.

Trudeau said last week that Chinese officials were not respecting Kovrig's diplomatic immunity.

For whatever reason China has suddenly begun working hard to push Schellenberg's case to worldwide prominence, taking the highly unusual step of inviting foreign journalists into the court.

Ren Zhengfei, Huawei's reclusive billionaire founder and Meng's father, broke a years-long silence this week to insist his company doesn't help Chinese intelligence services.