All eyes were on Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on Saturday when the two returned home after nearly three years spent in apparent arbitrary detention in China.
Heartwarming images and videos surfaced of the two reuniting with their families. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called their return home “good news for all of us” on Friday, noting that they had both been through an “incredibly difficult test.”
But as of Sunday, at least 115 Canadians remain in custody in Chinese prisons, Global Affairs Canada said in an emailed statement to Global News. Not all Canadians jailed in China are in arbitrary detention, but the agency said at least four of those jailed are on death row.
Friends and family welcome ‘Two Michaels’ after years of detention in China
“Canada opposes the death penalty in all cases, everywhere,” said Global Affairs Canada.
“We have raised our strong opposition to the death penalty with China and continue to call on China to grant clemency to all Canadians on death row.”
The agency said it reviews each arrest on a case-by-case basis, as consular officials often require a “personalized approach” that can be tailored to different local contexts and circumstances.
Here’s a look at the four Canadians currently on death row.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in a Chinese prison
Of those sentenced to death, the most recent is Canadian Robert Schellenberg of Abbotsford, British Columbia. Liaoning High Court upheld his death sentence on August 10 following an appeal made during the summer.
Schellenberg was arrested on drug charges in China in 2014 and was formally charged with drug smuggling in January 2015. Initially, a Chinese court had sentenced him to 15 years in prison. But four years later, his verdict was overturned after a new trial and he was sentenced to death.
Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in August that Canada “strongly” condemned the court’s decision to uphold the death penalty for Schellenberg.
Chinese court confirms death penalty for Robert Schellenberg in drug trafficking case
“We have repeatedly expressed to China our strong opposition to this cruel and inhuman punishment and we will continue to work with Chinese officials at the highest level to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg,” he said, shortly after the ruling was rendered.
“We oppose the death penalty in all cases and condemn the arbitrary nature of Mr. Schellenberg’s sentence.”
In an emailed statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada reiterated that the federal government remains “strongly opposed” to the decision to arbitrarily impose and maintain the death penalty for Schellenberg.
The agency added that it “will continue to work with Chinese officials at the highest level to apply for clemency for Mr. Schellenberg.”
Chinese court confirms death sentence against BC man
Canadian Xu Weihong was sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court on drug manufacturing charges on August 6, 2020. Wen Guanxiong was also sentenced to life, who they claim helped Xu produce ketamine.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin justified Xu’s death sentence during a briefing last year, saying the death sentences would help “deter and prevent” similar crimes in the future.
“I would like to emphasize that China’s judicial authorities handle the relevant case independently in strict accordance with Chinese law and legal procedures,” Wang had said.
He added that “this case should not have any impact on China-Canada relations.”
China Upholds Death Penalty for Canadians Found Guilty of Making Illegal Drugs
Ye Jianhui is the fourth Canadian to receive the death penalty in China.
His sentence was handed down in August last year on drug manufacturing and transportation charges by the Foshan Municipal Intermediate Court, just one day after Xu’s.
Ye and co-defendant Lu Hanchang conspired with others to manufacture and transport drugs between May 2015 and January 2016, Associated Press reported last year.
When asked last year whether the sentencing of Canadian drug offenders was related to Meng’s case, Wang said China’s judicial bodies “handle cases independently,” adding that “the Canadian side knows the root cause “of the difficulties in relations between China and Canada.
China sentences another Canadian to death on drug charges
Fan Wei was sentenced to death on April 30, 2019 along with 11 other people for his involvement in an international methamphetamine operation.
Speaking to Global News on the day of his sentencing, Global Affairs Canada said officials attended the sentencing and the reading of the verdict. They asked China to grant clemency, adding that the decision to apply the “cruel and inhuman” death penalty to Fan’s case was “of extreme concern” to their government.
“Obtaining clemency for Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei is also of primary importance given China’s decision to impose the death penalty in these cases,” Global Affairs Canada said in an emailed statement to Global News on Sunday.
“Canada will continue to provide consular services to Robert Schellenberg, Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei, as well as their families.”
– With files from Saba Aziz and Aaron D’Andrea of Global News, as well as the Canadian Press, Associated Press and Reuters.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
The Canadian News
Canada’s largets news curation site with over 20+ agency partners