China sentences 6 foreigners for drugs; Canadian gets death

BEIJING (AP) — A court in southern China handed down sentences Tuesday to at least six foreigners involved in an international methamphetamine operation, including a Canadian given the death penalty.

The Jiangmen Intermediate People's Court in southern Guangdong province sentenced 11 people who produced more than 63 kilograms (139 pounds) of methamphetamine, an illegal drug.

Among them were one American and four Mexicans, who were all given life sentences or death sentences suspended by a period of two years. The court statement did not make clear which individual received what sentence, nor did it give their full names.

The Canadian sentenced to death was identified as "Fan Wei," but it was unclear whether that was the person's legal name. A person identified as Wu Ziping, whose nationality was not specified, was also handed a death sentence.

The sentence is likely to further strain Sino-Canadian relations, which have frayed since Canada arrested a Chinese tech executive last December at the request of the U.S. Since then, China has detained two Canadians and delayed some Canadian exports in apparent retaliation.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called the death sentence cruel and inhumane.

"We've very concerned about this sentence," Freeland said.

According to the court, Fan Wei and Wu conspired to manufacture and sell the drugs in 2012, and brought the others — described as "drug-making technicians" — on board. Between July and November of that year, the court says, the group set up a "den" in Guangdong's Taishan city, where they produced and sold more than 63 kilograms of methamphetamine and 365.9 grams of dimethyl amphetamine.

A court employee reached by phone declined to give further details on the case.

In a separate drug smuggling case, China sentenced Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death in a sudden retrial in January — one month after Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained on vague national security allegations. The moves were widely seen as punishment for Canada's arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecom company Huawei.

China has also suspended the license of two major Canadian canola exporters, alleging that officials discovered hazardous organisms in canola seed shipments.

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Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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