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China hits out at Australia over 'concern' for Canadian drug smuggler sentenced to death

China has lashed out at Australia after the acting Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham labelled the sentencing of a Canadian man to death for drug smuggling "concerning".

Mr Birmingham told ABC Radio yesterday it appeared a Chinese court had reached its decision very quickly and questioned whether the sentence had been applied fairly.

Robert Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 for attempting to smuggle 222kg of methamphetamine.

He was originally given a 15-year jail sentence, which he appealed and was instead given the death sentence.

"We are deeply concerned with this case, as we are in a consistent way wherever the death penalty is applied," Mr Birmingham said.

"We expect at a level of principle that not only the death penalty should not be applied but also wherever people are in trouble the rule of law ought be applied fairly."

At her daily press conference, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying chided Australia for interfering, espeically because the 220kg of methamphetamine that Schellenberg was attempting to smuggle were destined for Australia.

"Does the Australian side wish to see this large batch of drugs arrive in its land and endanger its people?" she said.

"This Australian official owes an explanation to his people. Does he wish to see these drugs find their way into his country?"

"For serious crimes posing great harm to the society like drug smuggling, I believe it is the international consensus that such crimes shall be strictly handled and punished."
Mr Birmingham's comments echo those made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who also angered China by saying that the court "arbitrarily" sentenced Schellenberg to death.

The court's decision has added additional tension to already fragile ties between Canada and China following the arrest in Vancouver of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou over allegations of spying by the United States.

China denied Ms Wanzhou was guilty and demanded she be released, saying otherwise "Canada must accept full responsibility for the serious consequences caused".

Several days after Ms Wanzhou's arrest, two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were detained in China on accusations of endangering the nation's national security.

Following Schellenberg's case, Canada issued a warning to its citizens travelling to China there could be a risk of "arbitrary enforcement" of laws.

Ms Chunying said the Dalian Intermediate People's Court had "strictly followed the provisions of the criminal procedure law" in Schellenberg's case.


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