A Chinese appeals court on Saturday agreed with prosecutors that a 15-year sentence was too lenient for a Canadian man convicted of drug smuggling. The court ordered that Robert Lloyd Schellenberg be retried in the city of Dalian, where he was originally tried and sentenced.
The decision will likely aggravate already strained relations between Canada and China over what appear to be retaliatory steps taken by China after Canadian authorities arrested a Chinese tech company executive.
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer for Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1 on behalf of the United States, which is seeking her extradition over alleged violations of U.S. trade sanctions on Iran. Following the arrest, China detained two Canadian citizens in China on national security charges.
A third Canadian citizen, a teacher, was also taken into custody this month over issues with her visa but was released and allowed to return to Canada, Global Affairs Canada announced Saturday.
Schellenberg could face a much more severe penalty, including death, when he is retried. The appellate court ruled that the jail sentence handed down by the lower court was "obviously inappropriate" because Schellenberg is accused of "playing an important role" in what may be an international drug smuggling ring, the court's announcement said.
In recent years China has executed citizens from several foreign countries, including Britain, Japan and the Philippines, following convictions on drug charges.