BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese court will try a Canadian citizen on drugs charges on Saturday, a government-run news portal said, in a case that could further test already difficult relations between Beijing and Ottawa.
The two countries have sparred over the fate of two Canadian citizens detained in China on suspicion of endangering state security, and of Canada’s arrest of a high-ranking Chinese executive at the request of the United States.
The high court in the northeastern province of Liaoning said on Wednesday a man it identified as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg would be tried on drugs smuggling charges in Dalian city on Saturday.
A Dalian government news portal said late on Wednesday Schellenberg was a Canadian and that this was an appeal hearing after he was found by an earlier ruling to have smuggled “an enormous amount of drugs” into China.
There was no immediate response from the Canadian government.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not have a grasp on the situation, but added that China had repeatedly made clear to Ottawa its “solemn” stance regarding its relations with Canada.
Drugs offences are routinely punished severely in China.
China executed a Briton caught smuggling heroin in 2009, prompting a British outcry over what it said was the lack of any mental health assessment.
Canada has pressed for the release of the two Canadians who China detained this month.
The two were detained after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s [HWT.UL] chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on Dec. 1. Neither country has drawn a direct connection between the cases.
China has demanded Canada free Meng, who is fighting extradition to the United States.
Canada arrested Meng at the request of the United States, which is engaged in a trade war with China. Meng faces extradition to the United States to face fraud charges that carry a maximum sentence of 30 years jail for each charge.
(This story has been refilled to clarify foreign ministry statement in paragraph 6)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in BEIJING and Amran Abocar in TORONTO; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)