Friends and family of former actor and entrepreneur Gilespie were shocked to hear of his emergence after vanishing in China 6 years ago. They assert he was wrongly accused of the charges of smuggling methamphetamine, commonly known as “ice.”
Close friend Roger James Hamilton posted on social media a message he received from a friend claiming that the bag Gilespie was caught with containing about 7.5 kilograms of methamphetamine was a gift from a group of Chinese businesspeople he had just met.
Karm attended a meeting with a group of Chinese businesspeople who agreed to invest in his project (a storage facility).
“As a sign of good faith of their intentions,” they gave him some gifts to take back to Australia with him—”brand name leather goods and luggage” that had drugs hidden in the linings.
“They asked him to carry presents back to their partners in Australia which included handbags. The drugs were in the handbags. It was a set up,” the message stated.
Hamilton goes on to say that the reason nobody knew of Gilespies’s arrest was due to a decision he and his lawyer made to keep silent so as not to “jeopardise the negotiations with China for his release.”
Gilespie was arrested in 2013 as he was about to board an international flight from Baiyun Airport, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
His first trial after about seven years was on June 10, where a verdict of capital punishment was given. He was given 10 days to appeal the decision.
“It is heartbreaking to think that for the last six and a half years Karm has been in prison without any of us knowing or having any way to support him,” the message on Hamilton’s Facebook said.
Childhood pen-pal Jill Parris found out about Karm via Facebook. The last time they spoke was in December 2013, she says it was out of character for him to just disappear with no contact for seven years.
“I haven’t slept. I just want my friend to be safe and home in Australia with these issues that he’s been charged with that I don’t believe,” Parris told Nine’s Today show on June 15.
“I’m extremely shocked. He was a straightforward person, very honest to a fault, he would tell me the truth always. Very truthful. He was a very direct person, very communicative and loving and caring individual. Very special,” she said.Parris says that Karm’s arrest is impacting the family greatly: “My children have known him since they were born. My daughter’s 37 and my son is 33.”
Speaking at Parliament House on June 15, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he is sad and concerned about the case.
“Australia’s opposition to the death penalty is bipartisan, multipartisan, unanimous, principled, consistent and well-known,” Morrison told parliament during Question Time.
Morrison said Australian officials have raised his case with Chinese counterparts on a number of occasions and are still working to secure his freedom.
“I and the government are very sad and concerned that an Australian citizen, Mr Karm Gilespie, has been sentenced to death in China,” Morrison said.
“Our thoughts are with him, his family and his loved ones.”
China’s Drug Double Standard
In an article on June 15, China’s mouthpiece Global Times hinted that Gilespie is being made an example of.
“By sentencing Gilespie to death, China has shown its zero tolerance to drug offenses. The death sentence is also meant to be a deterrence to other potential drug criminals,” Global Times reporter Yu Ning wrote.
However, while communist China is notorious for having one of the harshest zero-tolerance penalties for drug offenses, those working for the regime are often treated more leniently for illicit drug offences.
In 2018, The Epoch Times reported that some party officials sold drugs for profit. Xiao Jihe, former deputy chief at the Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau of Changting County in southeastern China’s Fujian Province, had a background in chemistry. He began synthesising ephedrine, a compound that is a precursor to making crystal meth. He was arrested in July 2009 and was sentenced to 1-and-a-half years in prison, according to People’s Net.
“This means the whole party bureaucracy has something fundamentally wrong at its roots,” said China expert Tang Jingyuan.
Epoch Times reporters Annie Wu and Frank Fang contributed to this article.