BEIJING (AFP) - An Australian national has been sentenced to death by a Chinese court for drug trafficking, a verdict that could further inflame tensions between Beijing and Canberra.
Australia’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply saddened” by the verdict and reiterated the country’s opposition to capital punishment.
The person, named in Chinese pinyin as "Kamu Jielaisibi", was handed the death penalty by Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court on Wednesday (June 10), according to a notice posted on the court website that day.
The notice revealed no details about the defendant besides his Australian nationality.
According to Chinese local media, the man was arrested at Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, north-west of Hong Kong, in December 2013 with more than 7.5 kg of methamphetamine in his checked luggage.
A spokesperson for Australia’s foreign ministry said consular assistance was being provided to the man, but they would not confirm his identity citing privacy obligations.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the verdict made in his case,” the spokesperson said, adding that Australia “opposes the death penalty, in all circumstances for all people.”
“We support the universal abolition of the death penalty and are committed to pursuing this goal through all the avenues available to us.”
China is Australia’s largest trading partner, as well as a major source of lucrative international students and tourists. But relations have been troubled in recent years and worsened after China reacted furiously to Australia’s call for an independent probe into the origins of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Beijing subsequently imposed tariffs on Australian barley and issued travel warnings to tourists and students over virus-linked racism against ethnic Asians in the country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed the allegations of racist treatment of Chinese as “rubbish” and said his government would “never be intimidated by threats” or “trade our values in response to coercion from wherever it comes”.
Last year, China sentenced two Canadian nationals to death on drug trafficking charges during an escalating diplomatic row with Canada over the arrest of top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Canadian attempts to plead for clemency for Robert Schellenberg and Fan Wei have so far not been successful.
China has also detained two Canadian nationals, including a former diplomat, on spying charges, in a move widely considered to be in retaliation for Meng’s arrest.