Third Canadian Citizen Sentenced to Death in China on Drug Charges

August 6, 2020 Updated: August 6, 2020

China has sentenced another Canadian citizen to death on drug charges, a move that comes amid a heightened hostile attitude by the communist regime toward Canada in recent months.

This is the third Canadian to be sentenced to death on drug charges in China since Canada detained a top executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei in 2018.

The Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court announced Xu Weihong’s penalty on Thursday and said an alleged accomplice, Wen Guanxiong, had been given a life sentence.

Death sentences are automatically referred to China’s highest court for review.

The brief court statement gave no details but local media in the southern Chinese city at the heart of the country’s manufacturing industry said Xu and Wen had gathered ingredients and tools and began making the drug ketamine in October 2016, then stored the final product in Xu’s home in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district.

Police later confiscated more than 265 pounds of the drug from Xu’s home and another address, the reports said. Ketamine is a powerful painkiller that has become popular among club goers in China and elsewhere.

Relations between China and Canada soured over the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder, at Vancouver’s airport in late 2018. The United States wants her extradited to face fraud charges over the company’s dealings with Iran. Her arrest infuriated Beijing, which sees her case as a political move designed to prevent China’s rise as a global technology power.

In apparent retaliation, Beijing detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor, accusing them of vague national security crimes.

Soon after, the regime handed a death sentence to convicted Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg in a sudden retrial, and in April 2019, gave the death penalty to a Canadian citizen identified as Fan Wei in a multinational drug smuggling case. Both men have lodged appeals.

China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola seed oil, in an apparent attempt to pressure Ottawa into releasing Meng.

At a press briefing on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin denied any connection between the sentencing and current Canada-China relations, as he defended China’s use of the death penalty for drug crimes as a “helpful deterrent.”

In late June, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian directly linked the fate of Spavor and Kovrig to the release of Meng, at a time when there were growing calls for Ottawa to intervene in the extradition case.

“Such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians,” Zhao said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report