China has rejected accusations from Canada that it is arbitrarily applying a death sentence to a Canadian convicted of drug smuggling.
China’s foreign ministry warned Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, to “stop making such irresponsible remarks”, accusing Canada of “double standards”.
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was initially given a 15-year jail term in November.
But on Monday a court increased this to the death penalty, saying the original sentence was too lenient.
The ruling is likely to worsen a diplomatic row between the countries, which has been escalating since Canada arrested an official of China’s Huawei telecoms giant last month.
China has expressed anger at the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, on suspicion of using a subsidiary company to evade US sanctions on Iran between 2009 and 2014.
She was detained at the request of the United States.
Ms Meng, 46, denies the charges. She was granted bail shortly after her arrest, but remains under constant surveillance and must wear an electronic ankle tag.
Denying that Beijing had politicised Schellenberg’s case in response to Ms Meng’s arrest, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged Canada to “respect China’s judicial sovereignty”.
“The comments from the Canadian government are full of double standards,” Ms Hua said, adding: “The Canadians are the ones who have arbitrarily arrested somebody,” in an apparent reference to Ms Meng.
No sign of a thaw
Stephen McDonell, BBC News, Beijing
It’s hard to see how Canada-China relations could deteriorate any further but, given recent events, it is totally possible.
Justin Trudeau speaks of the “arbitrary” nature of the death penalty decision for Robert Shellenberg and the Chinese foreign ministry ridicules him for it, questioning whether he has read the court documents.
Ms Hua, of the foreign ministry, said: “He was involved in drug smuggling… the facts are clear; the evidence is solid.” She said that “the Canadian government should remind its citizens not to engage in drug smuggling”.
Since the Schellenberg ruling, Canada has updated its travel advice for China – urging citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws”. Ms Hua responded: “China is safe as long as Canadians and others abide by Chinese laws.”
However, Beijing has also issued its own travel warning – presumably in retaliation – calling on Chinese people to “fully assess the risks of travelling to Canada”.
One way for Canada to get out of the quagmire would be to simply cave in and let Meng Wanzhou leave rather than face extradition to the US. But it has shown no indication this is even an option.
Why was Schellenberg given a death sentence?
The Canadian, who is believed to be 36, was arrested in 2014 and accused of planning to smuggle almost 500lb (227kg) of methamphetamine from China to Australia.
Schellenberg, who has previous drugs-related convictions in Canada, has denied the charges against him, saying he entered China as a tourist and was framed.
Mr Trudeau has condemned the latest ruling, saying: “It is of extreme concern to us… that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply the death penalty.”—BBC