A Canadian man is to appear before a court in north-eastern China on Saturday on drugs charges, a government-run news portal said, amid frosty relations between Beijing and Ottawa.
The Liaoning people’s high court identified the man as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg.
In a brief statement published on Wednesday, the court said he was appealing against a drug smuggling case at 2pm (0600 GMT) on Saturday but gave no further details.
A government news portal, runsky.com, said Schellenberg was Canadian and had smuggled an “enormous amount” of drugs.
It mockingly admired the Canadian’s gall for “actually daring to smuggle drugs into China”, which still has the death penalty for drug trafficking.
The Global Times, which is close to the Chinese authorities, said that under Chinese law, the penalty for smuggling or manufacturing at least a kilo of opium, 50 grams of heroin or methylaniline is 15 years to life in jail, or in extreme cases, the death penalty.
It noted that in 2009, China executed the Briton Akmal Shaikh after he was convicted of smuggling four kilos (9lb) of heroin.
Robert Walker, a Canadian foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement that the ministry had “been following this case for several years and has been providing consular assistance to the Canadian citizen since they were first detained in Liaoning, China”.
“We will continue to provide consular services to them and their family,” he said.
Ties between Beijing and Ottawa have been strained after China detained two Canadians – former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and China-based businessman Michael Spavor – whom they accuse of engaging in activities that “endanger China’s security”.
Kovrig is a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group thinktank, while Spavor facilitates trips to North Korea, including visits by the former basketball star Dennis Rodman.
Though no link has been officially made, the arrests seem to be in retaliation for Canada’s 1 December arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
She was detained at the request of the United States, which has accused her of violating sanctions against Iran.
Another Canadian, a woman named Sarah McIver, is also being held pending deportation for working illegally in China.