A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Canada “knows the root cause” behind recent death sentences for Canadians facing drug charges, the latest escalation in conflict between both countries following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reportedly said the judicial system in China “handles cases independently” while discussing the recent death sentences for two Canadian nationals charged in separate cases with transporting and manufacturing drugs in China.
However, he later said at the same press briefing that “the Canadian side knows the root cause” behind the harsh sentences.
Ms Meng, chief financial officer for the Chinese-based Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, faces extradition by the US over fraud charges surrounding the company’s dealing with Iran. The daughter of Huawei’s founder, she was arrested in late 2018 at Vancouver airport.
China has condemned Canada’s decision to arrest Ms Meng, describing it as a politically motivated attempt to curtail Beijing’s leadership in the global technology industry. Since then, it has announced four death sentences against Canadian nationals.
Ye Jianhui, a Canadian national arrested on drug offences, was sentenced to death following a trial in southern China, according to a notice posted on the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court website. One Chinese national arrested with Mr Ye was also sentenced to death, while four were not.
Xu Weihong was also sentenced to death for producing drugs a day earlier.
Canada spoke out against the death sentences, with foreign ministry spokesman John Babcock saying in a statement after Mr Xu’s sentencing: “Canada requests clemency for all Canadian citizens who have been sentenced to death, and calls on China to grant clemency to Mr Xu.”
China has carried out several other arrests seen as retaliatory acts against Canada’s detainment of the top Huawei executive, including the arrests of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Korvig.
Still, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said Beijing “applies the death sentence with strict control” and added: “Keeping the death sentence will deter serious criminals.”
He added: “People are equal in front of the law and criminals of all nationalities in China are treated equally.”