Canadian detained in China has been released

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A Canadian teacher arrested in China for administrative reasons - a case officially unrelated to the ongoing diplomatic row between Beijing and Ottawa - has been freed, authorities said Friday.

The aunt of an Alberta woman who has been released from custody in China says she believes it was a mistake by her niece's employer that resulted in her arrest.

The spokesman did not specify when the Canadian returned to Canada.

"I have taken note of the notice that an appeal on the drug-smuggling charges against Robert Lloyd Schellenberg will be heard by Liaoning Higher People's Court", China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said when asked to respond on the Canadian's case.

China detained Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor separately after Canada arrested Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, CFO for the Chinese technology company Huawei, in Vancouver on December 1, for possible extradition to the US.

Authorities have not released any details of the accusations against Schellenberg.

The Higher People's Court of Liaoning Province heard an appeal Saturday from Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was given a 15-year prison sentence last month for his involvement in worldwide drug-trafficking activities.

A Dalian government news portal said Schellenberg was a Canadian and that this was an appeal hearing after he was found by an earlier ruling to have smuggled "an enormous amount of drugs" into China.

Meng was arrested at the request of USA prosecutors and faces extradition on charges of violating sanctions on Iran.

The Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland did not mention the woman in calling for the release of the other two Canadians last week.

Schellenberg could face a much more severe penalty, including death, when he is retried.

"They are airing it in public as a showcase of their power and potential to put pressure on Canada", she said.

In December 2009, China executed convicted drug smuggler Akmal Shaikh of the United Kingdom for smuggling 4,030 grams of heroin.

An official from the National Narcotic Control Committee said in March 2017 that the drug trafficking cases in China which involve foreigners has been increasing.

Her arrest has also heaped uncertainty on efforts by Washington and Beijing to reduce tensions in their trade war.

  • Tracy Klein