Huawei row in spotlight as China sentences Canadian to death

Meng Wanzhou, Executive Board Director of the Chinese technology giant Huawei | File Photo   | Photo Credit: Reuters

A court in China has sentenced a Canadian to death for drug-related offenses, sparking a row with Ottawa, and once again spotlighting the detention in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of telecom giant Huawei.

On January 14, a lower court in Dalian awarded the death penalty to Robert Lloyd Schellenberg. Mr.Schellenberg was sentenced for smuggling 200 kilos of Methamphetamine to Australia. The banned substance was apparently hidden in tyres bound for export to Australia from the port city of Dalian.

The ruling has drawn global attention as it is being linked with China’s relentless pressure on Canadian authorities to release Ms.Meng, the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei.

Ms. Meng’s arrest on December 1 at Vancouver airport has been dragged into the tech- war between China and the United States, over 5G technology, of which Huawei is a well-established frontrunner.

Analysts say that the arrest of Ms. Meng, who is on bail but could be extradited to the U.S., was to announce Washington’s firm intent to retard China’s hi-tech Made-in-China 2025 programme, of which the underlying Huawei-led 5G technology is essential.

Trade war

Mr.Schellenberg’s sentencing appears to be feeding into the high-intensity “trade war” between Beijing and Washington, masking the broader U.S. goal of undermining China’s rise.

The Dalian court’s verdict reverses the earlier sentencing in November of the Canadian national to a 15-year jail term.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has slammed the latest ruling as driven by political considerations, meriting a collective response from friends and allies.

“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 a death penalty,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

Ties between China and Canada are on a downward spiral after Ms. Meng’s arrest. Shortly after the Huawei executive’s detention, Chinese authorities apprehended Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor-- two Canadians living in China. The pair had been arrested on grounds that they were endangering China’s national security. On January 14, Canada tightened its travel advisory, discouraging Canadians to travel to China. It warned that Canadian citizens could face “arbitrary enforcement of local laws” in China. The Canadian advisory echoed a similar warning from the U.S. State Department earlier this month.

Observers say that Mr. Schellenberg may have become a bargaining chip in a nasty back-and-forth between China and the United States. The Canadian can appeal his sentence within the next 10 days to higher Chinese courts. But the legal process could take several years to complete, giving room for protracted negotiations between the Chinese and the Canadians, and tangentially with the Americans, to nullify their key sources of friction nullify their key sources of friction.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 6:30:20 PM |

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