Published:August 9, 2021

-Global News

Canada “strongly condemns” China’s decision to uphold the death penalty sentence against Robert Schellenberg and will continue to seek clemency for him, foreign affairs minister Marc Garneau said.

The government issued the statement overnight Tuesday after the Higher People’s Court of Liaoning Province rejected Schellenberg’s appeal. He was originally detained in China in a drug case in 2014.

“We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment and will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg,” Garneau said.

“We oppose the death penalty in all cases, and condemn the arbitrary nature of Mr. Schellenberg’s sentence.”

After Monday’s appeal, the Higher People’s Court of Liaoning Province said the sentence was appropriate and the lower court’s procedures were legal. It sent the case to China’s supreme court for review.

Schellenberg was detained by Chinese authorities in December 2014 and was formally charged with drug smuggling in January 2015. His initial 15-year verdict on drug smuggling charges was overturned and a death sentence was issued in January 2019 following a retrial.

The next and final step in the Chinese legal process is a mandatory review by the Supreme People’s Court.

“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Bob,” a statement from the Schellenberg family reads.

“We remain hopeful that the diplomatic efforts between Canada and China will bring about the best possible outcome for Bob and that the Canadian government’s request for clemency for him will be honoured.”

Throughout his time in detention, Canadian consular officials have been granted access to Schellenberg — although no consular access was granted from January to October last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously condemned the death sentence, saying China has “arbitrarily” applied the death penalty to this case.

Schellenberg has maintained his innocence.

“Global Affairs Canada will continue to provide consular services to Mr. Schellenberg and his family. Due to provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be released,” Garneau’s statement added.

Meanwhile, a verdict is also expected this week for Michael Spavor, one of the “two Michaels” who have been detained in China for over two and a half years, a source with direct knowledge told Global News.

Spavor will be found either innocent or guilty. Along with Michael Kovrig, he was detained in China in December 2018 just days after Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver by the RCMP at the behest of American authorities.

The U.S. has charged Meng with violating sanctions on doing business with Iran and other counts of corporate espionage, and is seeking her extradition. Meng and Huawei, along with Beijing, have denied any allegations of wrongdoing.

While China has denied that Kovrig’s and Spavor’s arrests were a retaliatory measure, officials have also suggested that the pair could be released if Meng is allowed to return home to China and the case against her is dropped. Canada has refused to entertain such an exchange.