A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian man to death in a drug smuggling case.
An expert on the Chinese legal system told the National Post that it appears China had raised Schellenberg's case to pressure Canada to release previously detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
That was followed by China's detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian businessman Michael Spavor on suspicion of endangering national security.
In his opening statement on Monday, Schellenberg said he had gone to China after travelling through Southeast Asia, including Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
He said a friend recommended him a man named Xu Qing as a translator and he was swept up in what has turned out to be an worldwide drug trafficking syndicate.
Evidence obtained by the investigators "suggests Schellenberg was involved in organized worldwide drug crime", the prosecution argued.
Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 and received his original sentence in 2016 in a case that went unnoticed.
Chinese prosecutors say that Schellenberg was part of an worldwide syndicate which planned to send some 222kg of methamphetamine to Australia, hidden within plastic pellets concealed in rubber tyres.
There has been little public information from the courts about Schellenberg's case, rights groups say, making it hard to keep track of it.
Prosecutors presented Xu as a witness, who in almost two hours of testimony did not look at Schellenberg. His sentencing came during a one-day retrial on Monday. China has executed foreign drug smugglers before: United Kingdom citizen Akmal Shaikh was put to death in 2009, despite protests from British authorities, for smuggling over four kilograms of heroin.
On Friday, Donald Clarke, a specialist in Chinese law at George Washington University, said in a blog post that Schellenberg's case had several unusual features, including the delay in trial and sentencing, the rare decision for and extraordinary speed in scheduling a retrial, and invitations to worldwide media to observe the case.
"If the Chinese government has an innocent explanation for all the unusual features of this case, I hope it will provide it".
"Amnesty International is very concerned that Robert Schellenberg may be sentenced to death, particularly as drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes", to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law", Nee said. "Otherwise, I don't know how to understand this case other than as a simple threat". China did not directly link the arrest to the charges against Meng, but said the men are being investigated in accordance with Chinese Law.