A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian national Ye Jianhui to death last Friday, citing drug transporting and manufacturing charges. The Chinese police in Guangdong Province discovered 480 pounds of MDMA in a room used by Ye and five other Chinese nationals. The report comes only days after another Canadian national is facing the death penalty with charges of drug proliferation.
According to Reuters, these arrests bring the count to four Canadians being sentenced to the death penalty in China under drug charges in two years. These issues come along at a time that diplomatic tension between Canada and China is already high due to the arrest of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December of 2018, with the Canadian government complying with an extradition request by the U.S. over federal fraud charges against Meng. Many have seen China’s charge against these four Canadian nationals as a direct response to Meng’s arrest.
China has a history of strict drug enforcement policies, and as per the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP), drug trafficking is one of the few criminal offenses in China that qualifies a person for the death penalty. According to Harm Reduction International’s (HRI) Death Penalty Report 2019 Global Overview, drug offenses are considered punishable by death in 35 countries, however, only four nations, including China, have implemented executions in 2019. An analysis by the HRI indicates that China is the world’s top executioner, executing hundreds of people a year for murder and drug-related charges.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, has stated that there is no relation between the arrest of Canadian citizens and the Canadian-Chinese diplomatic relation . Wang goes on to articulate that “death sentences for drug-related crimes that are extremely dangerous will help deter and prevent such crimes.”
However, according to Amnesty International, the death penalty is not a unique deterrent for crime. The death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1975. By 2003, the murder rate dropped by 44%. Within the U.S., states without capitol punishment have significantly lower murder rates than those who do. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s extremist response to the nation’s drug epidemic, which resulted in the mass killings of any person thought to be associated with the drug trade, has been found to be a failure. On the other side of the spectrum, in Iran, executions dropped by 50% in 2018 as a direct result of legislation that increased the minimum amount of drugs resulting in the death penalty, according to Aljazeera in February of 2019. This change reflects a growing sentiment within the international community in understanding the benefits of decreasing capital punishment.
Despite this life or death situation facing four Canadian citizens, the response to this issue from the Canadian government has been minimal apart from the foreign ministry’s request of clemency for all Canadian citizens currently facing the death sentence.
The solution to this issue is relatively simple. China needs to allow for the extradition of the four Canadian citizens back to Canada to face the Canadian court system in exchange for the release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou back into Chinese custody. According to the Global Investigation Review, extradition law in China necessitates that the offence must be a crime under the law of both China and the requesting state. As drug trafficking is illegal in Canada, extradition could fit within the purview of this solution with defendants facing a mandatory minimum penalty of two years for the production of illicit drugs.
While Canadian and American officials may find issue with Meng evading punishment from her alleged crimes, there are national actions that can be taken against Meng as recompense for her charges. The most accessible of these solutions being delineating her as criminally inadmissible and barring her from entering either country. This solution is not without its difficulties. However, it would be a suitable move to help ease the Chinese-Canadian tensions and pave the way for a potential extradition agreement between the two nations.
The issue between China and Canada is not an isolated incident, rather, it reflects a global need to end the death penalty for all nonviolent drug-related crimes. The value of human life outweighs the crimes brought up against Meng. While some may fear this agreement between China and Canada could result in a dangerous precedence and a grey area international law, the reality is that if the recommendations of this article are followed, both Meng and the four Canadian nationals will face the law for their crimes. However, it will be the laws of their own nations and in the end, lives will be saved.
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