A Canadian man who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug smuggling in China will face a retrial on Monday, which could hand him a harsher sentence and further strain ties between Beijing and Ottawa.

In a statement posted on its website, the northeastern Dalian Intermediate People’s Court said Thursday that Robert Lloyd Schellenberg’s new trial is scheduled for 8:00 am (0000 GMT) on January 14, but gave no further details.

Canada consulate
File photo: Peter Parks/AFP.

China exercises a zero-tolerance policy towards drug trafficking, and has handed death sentences to foreigners found guilty of smuggling large quantities of illicit drugs.

The case comes as Beijing and Ottawa remain embroiled in a diplomatic row triggered by Canada’s December 1 arrest of a senior executive from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei wanted in the United States.

In what observers see as an act of retaliation, China later detained two Canadians — a former diplomat and a business consultant — on suspicion of engaging in activities that “endanger” national security.

In a previous ruling in November, Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in prison and a 150,000 yuan ($22,000) forfeiture.

Michael Kovrig Michael Spavor
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. File photo: Twitter.

The high court in northeastern Liaoning province, which presided over Schellenberg’s appeal attempt last December, called the sentencing “obviously inappropriate” given the severity of his crimes.

Schellenberg played “an important role” in drug smuggling and was potentially involved in international organised drug trafficking activities, it said.

Other foreigners have been executed for such crimes.

In 2014, a Japanese national sentenced in Dalian city in northeastern Liaoning province was put to death for drug offences, according to Tokyo diplomats and media reports.

China also sentenced a Filipina drug trafficker to death in 2013, according to the Philippine foreign department, ignoring Manila’s request to spare her life.

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