In a move that will likely further enflame tensions between Australia and China, an Aussie man has been sentenced to death for drug smuggling by a Chinese court.
The man, who has been identified in the Australian media as ‘Cam Gillespie’ was handed the sentence by the Guangzhou intermediate people’s court on Wednesday, 10 June.
Gillespie has been in custody since December 2013 when he was arrested at Guangzhou Baiyun airport with more than 7.5kg of methamphetamine in his checked luggage. Guangzhou is a large port city northwest of Hong Kong on the Pearl River.
Foreign Affairs ‘deeply saddened’ at verdict
No details about the man have been released, either by Chinese officials or Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, although the department did confirm it is providing consular assistance to Gillespie.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the verdict made in his case,” a department spokesperson said in a media statement.
“Australia opposes the death penalty, in all circumstances [and] for all people. We support the universal abolition of the death penalty and are committed to pursuing this goal through all the avenues available to us.”
The statement added: “Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment.”
China has executed foreign citizens in the past
China routinely imposes the death sentence for convicted drug smugglers, with executions usually carried out by a firing squad. Foreign citizens who have been executed in the past include a Japanese citizen in 2014, a citizen of the Philippines in 2013 and a Briton in 2009.
The sentences are sometimes imposed as part of a diplomatic tit-for-tat with other countries.
For example, last year two Canadians were sentenced to death for drug crimes not long after the arrest in Canada of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the US. The US and Canada have an extradition treaty.
The detention of the Canadian men in China was seen by some as a retaliatory move by Beijing for the proceedings against Meng.
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, another Canadian, received the death sentence after a sudden retrial in which the court deemed his previous 15-year prison sentence for drug smuggling as being too lenient.