Freeland slams ‘inhumane’ sentence as China gives second Canadian death penalty for drugs offences

In the second such sentencing this year, a Canadian citizen has been given the death penalty in China for drugs offences.

Fan Wei, whose gender has not yet been confirmed, was one of 11 people sentenced Tuesday at the Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court in southern Guangdong province for their roles in a methamphetamine ring.

Also among the 11 sentenced were one American and four Mexicans, who were all given life sentences or death sentences suspended by a period of two years. A court statement did not make clear which individual received what sentence, nor did it give their full names or genders.

Though the Canadian was identified as “Fan Wei,” it remains unclear whether that is the person’s legal name. A person identified as Wu Ziping, whose nationality was not specified, was also handed a death sentence.

The South China Morning Post has named the American as Mark Swidan of Houston, Texas, and the four Mexican nationals only by their first names Leon, Pedro, Oscar and Carrett.

According to the court, Fan Wei and Wu conspired to manufacture and sell the drugs in 2012, and brought the others — described as “drug-making technicians” — on board. Between July and November of that year, the court says, the group set up a “den” in Guangdong’s Taishan city, where they produced and sold more than 63 kilograms of methamphetamine and 365.9 grams of dimethyl amphetamine.

Speaking Monday on Parliament Hill, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Canadian’s sentence was “inhumane.”

“We’re very concerned by this sentence,” she told gathered reporters. “Canada stands firmly opposed to the use of the death penalty everywhere around the world. We think that this is a cruel and inhumane punishment which should not be used in any country. We are obviously particularly concerned when it is applied to Canadians.”

Fan Wei and the others sentenced Tuesday have the right to appeal, and the South China Morning Post reported that consular officials were at the hearing.

In this image taken from a video footage run by China’s CCTV, Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg attends his retrial at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in Dalian, northeastern China’s Liaoning province on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. CCTV via AP

The Fan Wei case comes on the heels of that of Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, sentenced to death in Dalian, China in January. That move came just as tensions were escalating between China and Canada over the Vancouver detention of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei who was arrested in December of 2018.

Meng faces extradition to the U.S. on the back of charges that she violated sanctions put in place by the U.S. against Iran.

In the days following Meng’s arrest, China arrested two Canadian citizens on allegations of engaging in activities that have endangered Chinese national security. Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, are still being held by Chinese authorities in what the Justin Trudeau government has called arbitrary detentions.

Weeks after those detentions, Trudeau fired Canada’s former ambassador to China, John McCallum, for going off-script in the government’s efforts to win the release of the two men. Before his posting in Beijing, McCallum was a longtime Liberal MP and cabinet minister.

Meanwhile China has blocked Canadian canola shipments in the last few months and has suspended the licences of two major Canadian exporters.

China’s decision to cut off Canadian shipments is widely viewed as an attempt to apply economic pressure on Canada following Meng’s arrest.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says Ottawa needs to treat Chinese imports with the same scrutiny China is showing Canada’s canola shipments.

— with files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press




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