“Canada continues to call for clemency for Robert Schellenberg, as we do for all Canadians facing the death penalty,” the statement read.
However, on Jan. 14, 2019, a Chinese court overturned the ruling and ordered a full retrial of his case on grounds that the sentence had been too lenient. Schellenberg was sentenced to death despite a rule governing retrials that prohibits an increase in punishment. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the court had decided to “arbitrarily” apply the death penalty.
The retrial came soon after Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder, was arrested by Canada at Vancouver’s airport in late 2018, on an extradition request from the United States. Meng faces charges in the United States over Huawei’s dealings with Iran.
The news of Schellenberg’s virtual consular visit comes after Global Affairs announced Saturday that Barton had also visited Michael Spavor on Oct. 9 and Michael Kovrig on Oct. 10 in an internet-based visit.
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, however, warned against overreacting to the virtual visit.
“There was absolutely no reason that virtual access couldn’t have been offered by China even during the height of the pandemic, and no justification for denying in-person visits after China emerged from lockdown during the summer,” said Mulroney.
“This is simply more cruel treatment by China, with the expectation that we will be grateful even for even a half-hearted effort on their part. We shouldn’t fall into that trap.”
Michael Chong, the Conservative foreign affairs critic said he is seeing signs the Liberals are taking a firmer stand against Beijing.
“I think the Liberal government's finally responding to the pressure that the Conservatives have been putting on them,” Chong said.
Trudeau criticized the human rights record of the Chinese regime during a press conference on Tuesday.
“We will continue to work with China for advancing Canadian interests and Canadian producers. At the same time, we will remain absolutely committed to working with our allies to ensure that China's approach of coercive diplomacy, its arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens, alongside other citizens of other countries around the world, is not viewed as a successful tactic by them,” he said.
“It has put a significant strain on Canada-China relations and we will continue to highlight our concern for the Canadians detained, our concern for the protection of human rights in places like Hong Kong, in Xinjiang province with the Uyghurs.”
Minister of foreign affairs François-Philippe Champagne called on China Wednesday to “immediately restore regular and consistent consular access to all Canadians in detention."
The Chinese regime, meanwhile, has described Meng's arrest as a bullying tactic by Canada, a charge denied by the Canadian government.
Bob Rae, Ambassador to the United Nations told UN General Assembly on Oct. 9 that any accusation of bullying was misdirected.
Rae said the regime arbitrarily arrested Kovrig and Spavor, who have since been living in "terrible conditions" without consular access.