According to breaking reports Monday morning, January 14, a Chinese court has sentenced Canadian citizen Lloyd Schellenberg to death after a sudden decision to retry his case. Schellenberg has been held by the Chinese government for the last four years and had originally been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in the attempted smuggling of methamphetamine out of China, destined for Australia. The retrial of Schellenberg was announced following the arrest of Weng Wanzhou—the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei—on December 1, 2018 by Canadian law enforcement.
Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver at the behest of the United States government due to her alleged direct involvement in fraudulent activities. Charges against Wanzhou state that she provided the means to trick financial institutions into doing business with telecommunications companies in Iran, thus bypassing U.S. sanctions. The arrest of Wanzhou followed increasingly stressed relations between the United States and China over trade and tariffs.
The U.S. State Department issued a warning to U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling to China due to Chinese authorities exercising broad authority to prevent U.S. citizens from leaving the country. Additionally, the Canadian government has asserted that China has detained 13 Canadians since the arrest of Wanzhou, though eight have been released.
Huawei has been the source of much scrutiny over the past year. According to a NEWSREP report in May, Huawei devices were banned from sales on U.S. military installations. The report describes how Huawei mobile devices have a built-in back door which was known to and approved of by the Chinese government. The back door actively transmitted extensive personal information from the user’s device to secure servers in Shanghai. There are also concerns regarding the Huawei initiative to become the global leader in the coming 5G network. Several nations, including the U.S., have implemented bans on Huawei 5G equipment based on security concerns. Finally, last week a Huawei employee was arrested in Poland on charges of espionage. Huawei has fired the employee and claimed his actions had nothing to do with the company.