Canada granted consular access to Canadian facing death penalty in China

Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, has been granted consular access to a Canadian detained in China for the first time since late January.

In an update released Wednesday afternoon, Global Affairs Canada said Barton was granted virtual access to Robert Schellenberg.

The statement said the agency continues to offer consular services to Schellenberg and his family.

However, Global Affairs Canada said under provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information would be disclosed.

“Canada continues to call for clemency for Robert Schellenberg, as we do for all Canadians facing the death penalty,” the statement reads. “Canada opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases, everywhere, and will undertake clemency intervention in all cases of Canadians facing execution.”

Schellenberg was arrested in December of 2014 and sentenced to death by a Chinese court in January of last year on drug smuggling charges.

The decision came after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on a U.S. extradition warrant in December. Days later, two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were detained in China in apparent retaliation.

More than 200 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized as part of Schellenberg’s case, the court said.

It called the Canadian the “principal offender” and said the evidence presented was “true and sufficient.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the sentencing, saying China has “arbitrarily” applied the death penalty to this case.

Schellenberg has maintained his innocence.

The news of Schellenberg’s consular visit comes days after it was announced Barton had been granted virtual access to both Kovrig and Spavor.

In a statement on Wednesday, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, Francois-Philippe Champagne, said he welcomed the news that consular services had been granted to the three detained men, and called on China to “immediately restore regular and consistent consular access to all Canadians in detention.”

He also called for the immediate release of Kovrig and Spavor, and for clemency for Schellenberg.

-With files from The Associated Press

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