BEIJING, Jan 15 - China denounced Canada on Tuesday for "irresponsible" remarks after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused it of "arbitrarily" sentencing a Canadian to death for drug smuggling, aggravating already icy relations.
The countries have been at odds since early December, when Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, on a U.S. extradition request as part of an investigation into suspected violations of U.S. trade sanctions.
Days later, China detained two Canadians on suspicion of endangering state security - former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business consultant Michael Spavor.
Monday's death sentence for Canadian Robert Schellenberg for smuggling 222 kg of methamphetamines became the latest strain on ties.
China has not linked any of the three Canadians' cases to Meng's arrest but has warned of severe consequences if she was not immediately released.
Trudeau said it should be of "extreme concern" to Canada's allies, as it was to his government, that China had chosen to "arbitrarily apply" the death penalty.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with that.
"The remarks by the relevant Canadian person lack the most basic awareness of the legal system," Hua told reporters.
Taking Canada to task for issuing an updated travel advisory warning citizens about the risk of arbitrary enforcement of laws in China, Hua said Canada should instead remind its people to avoid drug smuggling.
"We urge the Canadian side to respect the rule of law, respect China's legal sovereignty, correct its mistakes, and stop making irresponsible remarks," Hua said.
Hours later, the ministry issued its own travel warning.
Citing the "arbitrary detention" of a Chinese national in Canada at the request of a "third-party country," it urged citizens to "fully evaluate risks" and exercise caution when traveling there.
'NO NEW EVIDENCE'
Schellenberg had appealed against an original 15-year prison sentence issued in November, but the court in Liaoning province sided with prosecutors at the retrial that the punishment was too light.
A lawyer for Schellenberg, Zhang Dongshuo, said his client would appeal.
Zhang said there was insufficient evidence to prove Schellenberg was part of a drug syndicate, or that he was involved in smuggling methamphetamines.
Even if the court accepted all the charges, it should not have increased his sentence, given that facts the prosecution gave as new evidence had already been heard, he told Reuters.
"Chinese law stipulates that during an appeal, only if new evidence is discovered and retried can there be an increase in the severity of a sentence," Zhang said.
Schellenberg was arrested in 2014.
Asked about the case, the United Nations noted its opposition to the death penalty apart from exceptional circumstances.
"The bottom line is that the death penalty shouldn't be imposed for any crime other than intentional killing," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.
Asked whether it had concerns about due process, he said: "In China there is generally a problem of lack of transparency in trials. Of course transparency is particularly important when you are talking about capital punishment."
Chinese state media has played up coverage of Schellenberg's case following the deterioration in relations with Canada.
Drug smuggling is punished severely in China, and foreigners convicted of drug crimes have been executed before, including a Briton in 2009.
Schellenberg had faced a number of charges in Canada related to drug possession and trafficking, according to Canadian court records. But international rights groups condemned Schellenberg's sentence, with some saying it was too severe and may have been politically motivated."China is going to face lots of questions about why this particular person, of this particular nationality, had to be retried at this particular time," Human Rights Watch's Washington-based China director Sophie Richardson told Reuters.