China sentences 4th Canadian to death on drug charges in 2 years

China has sentenced a fourth Canadian citizen to death on drug charges in less than two years following a sharp downturn in relations over the arrest of an executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Ye Jianhui was sentenced Friday by the Foshan Municipal Intermediate Court in the southern province of Guangdong. Ye had been found guilty of manufacturing and transporting drugs, the court said in a brief statement.

Another suspect in the case was also given the death penalty and four others sentenced to between seven years and life in prison. Death sentences are automatically referred to China’s highest court for review.

Ties between Canada and China have soured over Canada’s late 2018 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a company executive and the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at Vancouver’s airport in at the request of the U.S., which wants her extradited to face fraud charges over the company’s dealings with Iran.

Her arrest angered Beijing, which calls it a political move aimed at constraining China’s rise as a global technology power.

Ye’s sentencing comes a day after fellow Canadian Xu Weihong was given the death penalty by the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court, also in Guandong province. Convicted Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg was sentenced to death in a sudden retrial shortly after Meng’s arrest, and a Canadian citizen identified as Fan Wei was given the death penalty in April 2019 for his role in a multinational drug smuggling case.

In apparent retaliation, China also detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor weeks after Meng’s arrest, accusing them of vague national security crimes.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, reacting Thursday to news of Xu’s sentence, said Ottawa was profoundly concerned.

“We oppose the death penalty at every step of the way,” Champagne said in an interview on CBC’s Power and Politics. “We have said it time and time and time again to the Chinese government and will continue to do that.”

Champagne said Canada is trying to build an international coalition of nations to advocate against the arbitrary detention of foreign nationals and for consular access when they are detained.

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