A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian man to death for drug trafficking, eliciting a rebuke from Canada’s foreign minister amid a diplomatic tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.
The court in southern Guangdong province said on Tuesday that Canadian national Fan Wei, and 10 others, including an American and four Mexicans, were part of an international narcotics syndicate working out of Taishan city between July and November 2012.
The group produced and sold 63.38kg (140 pounds) of methamphetamine and 366 grammes of dimethylamylamine, a drug used for attention deficit-hyperactive disorder, weight loss and improving athletic performance, according to the Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court.
Fan and a Chinese man who played a key role in operations were sentenced to death, the court said in a statement.
“The number of drugs sold and manufactured was extremely large and the crimes were extremely serious,” the statement said.
The other foreigners were given suspended death sentences, which would be reduced to life imprisonment after two years while the rest of the men faced prison terms.
They have 10 days to appeal the sentence.
China is widely believed to execute thousands of people every year, but data on executions “is classified as a state secret”, according to UK-based rights group Amnesty International.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland reacted to the sentencing, saying her government is “very concerned”.
“Canada stands firmly opposed to the use of the death penalty, everywhere around the world,” she told reporters. “We think that this is a cruel and inhumane punishment which should not be used in any country. We are obviously, particularly concerned when it is applied to Canadians.”
The Canadian foreign ministry in a statement called on China to grant clemency for Fan.
He is the second Canadian to be sentenced to death for drug offences in China this year, during a period of escalating tension between the two countries.
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In January, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was handed the death penalty following a one-day retrial after he appealed an earlier 15-year sentence in a separate drug trafficking case.
China says that he was a key member of an international drug trafficking syndicate but Schellenberg claims that he was visiting as a tourist.
The sentence came amid the backdrop of frosty diplomatic relations between China and Canada, with Beijing furious over the Vancouver arrest in December of a top executive from telecom giant Huawei on a US extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.
Chinese authorities later detained two Canadian nationals – a former diplomat and a business consultant – on suspicion of endangering national security, a move seen as retaliation over the Huawei executive’s arrest.
Schellenberg has appealed his sentence and Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is fighting extradition.
China has also canceled Canadian agribusiness Richardson International Ltd’s registration to ship canola to China this year.