BEIJING • A Chinese court has ordered a retrial for a Canadian citizen convicted on drug smuggling charges, after prosecutors said his jail sentence of 15 years was too light - a case that could further test relations between Beijing and Ottawa.
Tensions between the two governments 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 suspicion of endangering state security.
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg had lodged an appeal after being handed a 15-year sentence on Nov 20 in the north-eastern 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 yesterday, prosecutors said the sentence was too light and improper, arguing that Schellenberg was highly likely to have been part of an international drug-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.
It was not immediately clear when the retrial will take place.
A Dalian government news portal said last week that Schellenberg had smuggled "an enormous amount of drugs" into China.
Canada's government has said it has been following the case for several years and providing consular assistance, but could provide no other details, citing privacy concerns.
China exercises a zero-tolerance policy towards drug trafficking, and has handed death sentences to foreigners found guilty of smuggling large quantities of illicit drugs.
On a more positive note, a Canadian government spokesman said on Friday that a Canadian citizen who was detained in China this month had returned to Canada after being released from custody.
The spokesman did not specify when the Canadian returned to Canada. Earlier in the day, broadcaster CBC identified the citizen as teacher Sarah McIver.
China's Foreign Ministry said this month that Ms McIver was undergoing "administrative punishment" for working illegally.
Ms McIver was the third Canadian to be detained by China following the Dec 1 arrest in Vancouver of Ms Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies.
China has detained two other Canadians - former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and China-based businessman Michael Spavor - whom it accuses of engaging in activities that "endanger China's security".
Though no link has been officially made, the arrests seem to be in retaliation to Canada's arrest of Ms Meng, who has been accused by the US of violating sanctions on Iran.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE