China Court Orders Retrial for Canadian Jailed for Drug Smuggling

December 30, 2018 Updated: January 8, 2019

BEIJING—A Chinese court ordered a retrial of a Canadian citizen on drug smuggling charges on Dec. 29 after prosecutors said his sentence of 15 years was too light—a case that could further test relations between Beijing and Ottawa.

Tensions between the two sides have been high since Canada’s arrest of a high-ranking Chinese executive at the request of the United States this month, followed by China’s detention of two Canadian citizens on charges of endangering state security.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg had lodged an appeal after being handed a 15-year sentence on Nov. 20 in the northeastern city of Dalian, the high court for the province of Liaoning said in a statement, adding that he was to have been deported after serving his sentence.

At the appeal hearing, prosecutors said the sentence was too light and improper, arguing Schellenberg was highly likely to have been part of a international drugs smuggling operation and had played a major role in smuggling the drugs, the statement said.

The court said it accepted this argument and ordered a retrial. It added that Canadian diplomats were in court for the appeal.

In Ottawa, the foreign ministry said in a statement that it has been aware of the case for several years and would continue providing consular assistance to Schellenberg and his family. It gave no more details.

It was not immediately clear who Schellenberg’s lawyer was or when the retrial may take place.

A Dalian government news portal said this week Schellenberg had smuggled “an enormous amount of drugs” into China. Drugs offences are routinely punished severely in China.

A Briton caught smuggling heroin was executed in 2009, prompting a British outcry over what it said was the lack of any mental health assessment.