HONG KONG — A Chinese court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence of a Canadian man convicted of drug trafficking, one of a series of legal cases that have driven a diplomatic rift between Beijing and Ottawa.
The Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison for methamphetamine trafficking. But in 2019 he was handed a death sentence in a one-day retrial, one month after the Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, an executive with a Chinese telecommunications company.
The court’s ruling on Mr. Schellenberg’s appeal came as Ms. Meng’s case in Canada was entering its final arguments. She is fighting an extradition request from the United States on fraud charges.
The arrest of Ms. Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei, sharply increased tensions between Canada and China. Shortly after Ms. Meng was arrested, two Canadians — the former diplomat Michael Kovrig and the businessman Michael Spavor — were detained in China on charges of espionage. They were tried in March and are awaiting verdicts.
Hu Xijin, the editor of the Communist Party-owned Global Times newspaper, warned in 2018 that if Ms. Meng were extradited, “China’s revenge will be far worse than detaining a Canadian.”
A lower court had ruled that Mr. Schellenberg worked with others to smuggle 490 pounds of methamphetamines. Mr. Schellenberg’s lawyers had warned him that an appeal of his 2018 sentence could result in harsher punishment.
Still, the swiftness of his 2019 retrial stunned observers, with human rights advocates and legal experts saying that the timing sent a strong signal that his case was now a political matter.
The rejection of Mr. Schellenberg’s appeal on Tuesday had been seen as a near certainty. The High People’s Court of Liaoning Province in northeastern China said in a statement on Tuesday that “the facts found in the first instance were clear, the evidence was reliable and sufficient, the conviction was accurate, the sentence was appropriate, and the trial procedures were legal.”
His case will be reviewed by China’s highest court, the Supreme People’s Court, which is standard procedure for death-penalty cases.