TORONTO — The U.S. State Department said Wednesday China’s death sentence on a Canadian man is “politically motivated.”
The statement from U.S. deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke Tuesday and “expressed their concerns about the arbitrary detentions and politically motivated sentencing of Canadian nationals.”
A Chinese court resentenced Robert Schellenberg to death in a sudden retrial of a drug-smuggling case on Monday.
Freeland and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been talking to world leaders about Schellenberg’s case and the cases of two Canadians arrested in China in apparent retaliation for the arrest of Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Canada arrested the daughter of Huawei’s founder at the request of the U.S., which wants her extradited to face charges that she misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.
Palladino said the Meng case also came up.
“They noted their continued commitment to Canada’s conduct of a fair, unbiased, and transparent legal proceeding and U.S. extradition request with respect to Ms. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei,” the statement said.
Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, tweeted Tuesday the U.S. and other allies need to take a stronger public stance supporting Canada over the treatment of Canadian citizens detained in China.
Canada has embarked on a campaign with allies to win the release of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, whoy were detained 10 days after the Meng arrest on Dec. 1.
The White House previously called the detentions “unlawful,” but President Donald Trump has not commented himself. Trudeau called Trump last week about it.
A senior Canadian government official said this week Chinese officials have been questioning Kovrig about his time as a diplomat in China, which is a major reason why Trudeau is asserting diplomatic immunity. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly about the case, spoke on condition of anonymity.
China has said Kovrig is not eligible for diplomatic immunity.
Kovrig, a Northeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group think tank, was on a leave of absence from the Canadian government at the time of his arrest last month
A former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said interrogating Kovrig about his time as a diplomat in China would violate Vienna Convention protections of residual diplomatic immunity.