The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday shrugged off the international outcry against the death sentence abruptly imposed on accused Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg, insisting that China is “not worried in the slightest” about criticism from Ottawa or anywhere else.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying sneered that Canada’s “so-called allies could be counted on ten fingers” and insisted most of the international community supports China in the Schellenberg case.
One of those allies would be Australia, whose acting foreign minister Simon Birmingham expressed deep concern with the Schellenberg case on Wednesday.
“We expect at a level of principle that not only the death penalty should not be applied but also wherever people are in trouble the rule of law ought be applied fairly,” he said.
Hua Chunying shot back that Australia should be thankful China is helping to address its drug problem by terminating Schellenberg.
“The smuggled drugs were going to be sent to Australia. You should ask the Australian officials if they were happy to see these drugs being imported into their country,” she said at her Wednesday press briefing.
“I can very clearly state that we are not worried in the slightest,” Hua said of criticism from foreign governments and human rights groups.
Hua was contemptuous of Tuesday’s request by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to grant Schellenberg clemency.
“You ask whether China is willing to listen to the Canadian side’s request, but I don’t know if Canada’s leaders or politicians have seriously listened to China’s solemn position. We have very clearly outlined the case’s facts and its seriousness,” she told reporters.
Hua was equally dismissive of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s concerns about irregularities in the proceedings against Schellenberg, who spent the past two years appealing a 15-year prison sentence for drug trafficking, only to find himself suddenly sentenced to death instead by a court in the city of Dalian.
“I’m wondering whether the relevant individual has carefully read the information released by the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court on this case. And has he carefully learned about related Chinese laws?” she asked, referring to Trudeau.
Hua urged the Trudeau administration to “respect China’s judicial sovereignty, correct mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks.”
“Any responsible government will take strong measures in the face of such a serious drug smuggling crime. This reflects the highly responsible attitude and resolute determination of a government protecting the lives and safety of the public,” she argued.
Schellenberg’s Chinese defense attorney Zhang Dongshuo said on Wednesday that his client intends to appeal the death sentence, describing the condemned man as “relatively calm” despite the high stakes for both international relations and his own survival.
“His main point is that he is innocent, and he didn’t do what he’s been accused of doing,” said Zhang.
Zhang contradicted the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s talking points by claiming the death sentenced was imposed much too quickly and without any new information introduced by the prosecution, as normally required under Chinese law.
Zhang also noted that Schellenberg does have a history of drug trafficking arrests in Canada in 2003, 2010, and 2012, but oddly this history has not been referenced during Chinese court hearings. Schellenberg was arrested in China in 2014 while traveling through Asia. He claims he was an innocent tourist framed by criminals.