China’s Death Sentence Against Canada’s Schellenberg Is Terrorism

China’s Death Sentence Against Canada’s Schellenberg Is Terrorism
People walk past the Canadian Embassy as a Chinese court upheld the death sentence passed on Canadian citizen Robert Lloyd Schellenberg for drug smuggling in Beijing on Aug. 10, 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)
Anders Corr

On Aug. 10, Canadian Robert Schellenberg lost an appeal against a death sentence handed down in a northeastern Chinese court.

In China, “justice” is normally swift in these matters. However, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) guillotine will likely be stayed, at least for the moment, by the high-profile politics of this case, which are by design. Beijing is attempting to use Schellenberg’s life as collateral to stop the extradition of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou. Actually killing Schellenberg would have the opposite effect.

News of the latest death sentence against Schellenberg shocked Canadian public opinion. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau rightly said that Canada condemns the decision. Then came the Aug. 11 pronouncement of an 11-year prison sentence against another Meng-related hostage, Canadian businessman Michael Spavor.

“We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment and will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg,” Garneau said.

“We oppose the death penalty in all cases and condemn the arbitrary nature of Mr. Schellenberg’s sentence.”

Canada’s Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, went further.

“The denial of Robert Schellenberg’s appeals must be seen for what it is—a foreign government planning to take the life of a Canadian for political reasons," he told reporters on Aug. 10. “The use of the death penalty is bad enough, but to impose it for political reasons is inexcusable.”
Political violence is the central definitional element of terrorism.

O’Toole made the astute point that the reprehensible treatment of the three Canadians shows that Canadians aren’t safe in China.

“Canadians just enjoyed celebrating the amazing achievements of our athletes in Tokyo,“ he said. ”I know how hard our athletes are training for Beijing, but we are approaching a point where it won’t be safe for Canadians—including Olympic athletes—to travel to China.”

Canadian athletes aren’t the only ones at risk in China. All athletes and citizens from democracies, and elsewhere for that matter, are at risk. Beijing’s so-called Genocide Games, which should be called as such because of the CCP’s dual genocides against Uyghurs and Falun Gong, should be moved, for the safety of athletes and spectators, as well as to pressure Beijing to stop its genocidal policies.

Calvin Chrustie, a senior associate at a Canadian security firm, wrote in an electronic communication to The Epoch Times that travel to China comes with serious risk.

“The arrest and detention of Canadians should reinforce what many Western democracies and their security institution[s] have been advising their citizens and businesses,“ he wrote. ”China is like Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Venezuela, etc., for travelers. Whether it be for businesses or the Olympics, the risk will remain high and the ability to resolve and mitigate the threat, low.”

Schellenberg’s original sentence for alleged drug trafficking was 15 years’ imprisonment. Just weeks after Canada’s December 2018 arrest of Meng Wanzhou for alleged bank fraud over dealings with Iran, China reopened Schellenberg’s case under the more serious accusation of international drug trafficking, for which death is the maximum sentence.

China reconvicted Schellenberg and handed down the death sentence. Beijing had apparently planned that action since the Meng arrest, making it a political death threat meant to cause terror among Canadians rather than a normal judicial procedure.

A woman holds a sign with photographs of Michael Kovrig (L) and Michael Spavor (R), who have been detained in China since December 2018, during a rally in support of Hong Kong democracy in Vancouver, Canada, on Aug. 16, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)
A woman holds a sign with photographs of Michael Kovrig (L) and Michael Spavor (R), who have been detained in China since December 2018, during a rally in support of Hong Kong democracy in Vancouver, Canada, on Aug. 16, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Spavor was detained on Dec. 10, 2018, also shortly after Meng’s arrest. If Meng is extradited to the United States, Spavor and other Canadians can be reconvicted and resentenced, just like Schellenberg. There’s no rule of law in China, just rule of the self-defeating interests of the CCP.

Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, was detained on the same day as Spavor, for the same alleged offense, spying. Kovrig still faces life in prison. No evidence against the Michaels has been made public; Canadian diplomats haven’t been allowed to attend their court appearances, as is their right; and the two are being imprisoned in isolated and inhumane conditions.

In March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Their arbitrary detention is completely unacceptable, as is the lack of transparency around these court proceedings.”

Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton called the latest Schellenberg death sentence “not a coincidence.”

China announced the sentence just before a decision in Meng’s extradition case, in order to demonstrate the threat of death to a Canadian by putting Schellenberg one step closer to the CCP’s execution platform. This is China holding a gun to Canada’s head, and saying, “Make my day.”

Robert Oliphant, the parliamentary secretary to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, called the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor “targeted abductions.” Canada criticizes China’s detention and threats against Schellenberg, Spavor, and Kovrig as “hostage diplomacy.”

The three are certainly hostages,  but “diplomacy” is too dignified a term for the CCP.

Consider arbitrary abductions of upstanding citizens and a death threat that shocks a terrified Canadian public. Consider a so-called corporate CFO, in a CCP-supported company, allegedly perpetrating bank fraud and an illicit deal with Iran.

A Schellenberg execution wouldn’t be the first or last Canadian to die due to decisions made in Beijing, given the continued threat against the two Michaels, not to mention fentanyl and other illegal Chinese drugs flooding Canada through its West Coast ports.
Fake Oxycontin pills containing fentanyl are displayed during a news conference at RCMP headquarters in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, on Sept. 3, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Fake Oxycontin pills containing fentanyl are displayed during a news conference at RCMP headquarters in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, on Sept. 3, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
In April, an illegal fentanyl lab that’s capable of producing enough of the synthetic opioid in three weeks to kill every Canadian alive was discovered in British Columbia.

A Canadian security consultant who asked to remain anonymous wrote to The Epoch Times of “connections between the importation of Chinese precursors and the production of fentanyl in the lower mainland.”

“The networks importing these precursors have direct connections to Asian [Organized] Crime,” the consultant wrote.

The way in which Beijing, which has all of China under surveillance, has looked the other way as Chinese fentanyl and its precursors flood Canada and the United States, where the opioid is killing tens of thousands annually, isn’t only linked to organized crime, but, given state-level acquiescence, should be considered a crime against humanity.

Fentanyl is, in effect, being used by the Chinese regime as a way to terrify democracies into compliance with Beijing’s many demands.

This, along with other forms of CCP aggression, should be recognized as a form of terrorism. University of Chicago academic Teng Biao and international human rights lawyer Terri Marsh have argued as much.

China works hard to construct and polish the trappings of legitimate governance. But the truth, as should be evident from the Schellenberg and two Michaels cases, not to mention China’s pushing of fentanyl into North America, is that the CCP is closer to a terrorist organization. And that terrorist organization is looking to pronounce a death sentence upon democracy.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).
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