BEIJING: A Canadian is to appear before a court in northeastern China on Saturday for drugs charges, a government-run news portal said, amid frosty relations between Beijing and Ottawa.
The Liaoning People’s High Court identified the man as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg.
In a brief statement published Wednesday, the court said he is appealing a drug smuggling case at 2:00pm (0600 GMT) on Saturday but gave no further details.
A government news portal, runsky.com, said Schellenberg is Canadian and had smuggled an “enormous amount” of drugs.
It mockingly admired the Canadian’s gall for “actually daring to smuggle drugs into China,” which still has the death penalty for drug trafficking.
The Global Times, which is close to the Chinese authorities, said that under Chinese law, the penalty for smuggling or manufacturing at least a kilo of opium, 50 grams of heroine or methylaniline is
15 years to life in jail, or in extreme cases, the death penalty.
It noted that in 2009, China executed Briton Amal Shaikh after he was convicted of smuggling four kilos (nine pounds) of heroin.
Robert Walker, a Canadian foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement that the ministry had “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.”
“We will continue to provide consular services to them and their family,” he said.
Ties between Beijing and Ottawa have been strained after China detained two Canadians — former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and China-based businessman Michael Spavor — whom they accuse of engaging in activities that “endanger China’s security”.
Kovrig is a senior advisor at the International Crisis Group think tank, while Spavor facilitates trips to North Korea, including visits by former basketball star Dennis Rodman.
Though no link has been officially made, the arrests seem to be in retaliation to Canada’s December 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
She was detained on request from the United States, which has accused her of violating sanctions of Iran.
Another Canadian, a woman named Sarah McIver, is also being held pending deportation for working illegally in China.