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China silent on Canadian awaiting drug smuggling trial, while feds provide ‘consular services’

WATCH: Canadian to appear in Chinese court over drug charges

A Canadian citizen is set to be tried on drug charges in, after being arrested in China around four years ago, according to Canadian government officials.

The Canadian, who has been identified as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg by Global Times, a tabloid operated by the Communist Party of China, is set to head to trial Saturday in the Chinese port city of Dalian.

The news comes amid already heightened tensions between Beijing and Ottawa, after two Canadians were detained in China earlier this month.

A Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said it has been following the case for several years and has been providing “consular assistance to the Canadian citizen since they were first detained in Liaoning, China.”

READ MORE: China won’t stop flood of fentanyl into Canada, sources say

The spokesperson added that the Canadian government will continue to provide “consular services to them and their family.” No other information was given due to privacy concerns.

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Schellenberg was arrested for smuggling “an enormous amount of drugs” into China, according to Dalian.runsky.com, a news portal operated by Dalian authorities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in a daily briefing Thursday that she didn’t know much about the case, suggesting it’s not related to the arrests of two other Canadians on national-security grounds earlier this month.

WATCH: Ottawa demands China release two detained Canadian men

Ottawa demands China release two detained Canadian men
Ottawa demands China release two detained Canadian men

“I am not aware of the specifics of this case and I would refer you to the competent authority,” she said, according to an English transcript posted to the ministry website.

But, she added: “As to the diplomatic tensions between China and Canada, I think you are very clear about the reason for that. I have made clear China’s solemn position on it many times before.”

The Dalian government news portal stated sarcastically that Schellenberg’s audacity was to be admired given that he “actually dared to smuggle drugs into China.” It pointed out that Chinese criminal law offers “no sympathy” for drug crimes.

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Destination Canada pulls tourism ad in China
Destination Canada pulls tourism ad in China

China has some of the harshest drug laws in the world.

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People found guilty of smuggling large quantities of drugs face sentences ranging from 15 years’ imprisonment to life imprisonment and even the death penalty, the Global Times reported.

In 2009, China executed British citizen Akmal Shaikh after he was caught smuggling heroin. Shaikh’s death prompted outrage in the U.K. over the apparent lack of any mental health assessment.

The following year, Chinese authorities executed Japanese national Mitsunobu Akano for smuggling drugs.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau says people around the world ‘extremely disturbed’ by detention of Canadians in China

Schellenberg’s reported detention comes as Canada and China spar over the fate of Canadian nationals Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were detained in China on suspicion of endangering national security.

Their detention came shortly after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei, in Vancouver at the behest of U.S. authorities who are seeking her extradition.

WATCH: Ottawa demands China release two detained Canadian men

Ottawa demands China release two detained Canadian men
Ottawa demands China release two detained Canadian men

China has demanded that Canada release Meng immediately, but neither country has drawn a direct connection between her arrest and the detention of Canadians in China.

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— With files from the Canadian Press

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