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China Sentences a Man to Death: Act of Retaliation or Genuine Decision?

Updated: Nov 3, 2022


There exists a global sentiment against China. The diplomatic ties with most of the countries are taking a hit. The only countries that have remained silent while speaking against China are the countries like Nepal and Pakistan which are indebted to it in lieu of their inability to pay off the loans provided by China under the Belt and roads initiative. China’s inability to curb Covid-19 within their country has affected the world at large and the people across the globe are dissatisfied with China’s diplomacy. However, China remains unaffected. It seems like China is a strong believer of ‘Offence is the best defence’. With increasing border disputes and its growing expansionism, China has no sign of backing down. One such country with strained diplomatic relations with China is Canada. Yet another decision against a Canadian national which could possibly reiterate China’s untethered influence of politics on its state affairs. China’s Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court delivered a death penalty to the Canadian national Xu Weihong on the 6th of August 2020 who was found guilty of making drugs. The Canada-China ties have been weary since a few years now.

Why are ties between Canada-China strained?

The event that led to the estranged ties between Canada-China occurred in 2018. Meng Wanzhou Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer, the daughter of Huawei’s founder was arrested at the Vancouver airport as the US wanted to extradite and try her with regards to alleged fraudulent dealings with Iran. Since then China has shown retaliation by accusing two Canadian nationals, former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and an entrepreneur Michael Spavor under the pretext of national security. Death penalty in China for Drugs smuggling cases is not uncommon. In 2019 a Canadian national Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was sentenced to death on the charges of drug trafficking following which Fan Wei who was also a Canadian national was charged in a multinational drugs smuggling case and was sanctioned with the death penalty in the same year. Xu Weihong being another Canadian citizen being penalized by China.

Facts in Xu Weihong’s Case

Xu Weihong is a Canadian citizen found guilty of making a drug called ‘ Ketamine’. Ketamine was used as an animal tranquillizer but in due course has been found to be used as a recreational drug. Wen Guanxiong, an accomplice who was native to Guangzhou, Guangdong province, was sentenced to life behind bars. The exact particulars of the case have not been disclosed. This case is an apposite example of what could be a retaliatory decision by Beijing. As per the Chinese criminal law system death sentences are automatically referred to its highest court for review. However, due to the lack of transparency, the benefit of the same remains questionable.

After Xu Weihong’s case was decided when the Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson was questioned as to whether the said decision will impact and worsen the Canada-China relations, Wang Wenbin stated the seriousness of drug-related crimes across the globe and that a stringent penalty will help in deterring the offence. He further went on to state that the judicial authorities handle foreign cases in accordance with the law and explicitly said,

I want to stress that Chinese judiciary independently handles the case in strict accordance with Chinese law and legal procedures. I don't see any impact on China-Canada relations.

Do Capital Punishments deter crimes

The nature of capital punishment and if is actually deterrent in nature is much deliberated. There are a few countries across the globe that still haven't done away with Capital punishments such as India, United States, Sri Lanka, Pakistan to name a few. There are articles supporting it as well as condemning it. There is a Scientific consensus as per the Amnesty International that is ‘Death Penalty does not deter.’ Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry justified that death penalty given by the court is important as it will deter crimes related to drugs in the future. It raises questions with regards to the motive for such a punishment especially when you consider the history among the two countries prior to considering the present case. However, due to the lack of transparency and insufficient facts we cannot comment on the merits of the decision given by the Chinese court. There is a need to set clear standards across the globe when it comes to capital punishment especially when there might be a possibility of an external influence on the judicial decision.

Political Influence on the Judicial decision

Considering the facts in the present case and the weary ties between Canada and China one might suspect that the judicial decision on the 6th August 2020 that sanctioned a death penalty to Xu Weihong a Canadian citizen was politically influenced. Generally, while delivering the judgement the courts often look into the degree of the offence and standard of treatment of the offender. For example, A punishment for a habitual offender might be more stringent in comparison to the first time offender. It appears that the Chinese courts do not consider the standard of treatment of the offender as a rationale before delivering decisions. Thus, taking into account the facts in the present case and strained ties among the two nations a political influence becomes more plausible.


There is a spirit of global uproar against China in lieu of the pandemic. China is wearing ties further with many countries. Almost all the countries are unhappy with Chinese diplomacy and are retaliating against them by boycotting Chinese goods. Unaffected by strained ties with a number of countries it has furthered the strain on its relationship with Canada. The case of Xu Weihong from what we can understand had a hint of political influence in it. The merits of the judgement cannot be commented upon as all the facts and circumstances of the case are not known. The decision, however, is hinting towards revenge and a ruse of sorts to put pressure on Canada with regards to the release of Meng Wanzhou’s case. This decision appears to be an act of retaliation against Canada.


The opinions expressed in the articles published by The Bharat Pacific, are those of the authors (including our editors). They do not reflect the opinions or views of the Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence and Law Charitable Trust or its members.

The Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence and Law is a technology law research organisation founded by Abhivardhan in 2018. Our mission is to promote responsible development of artificial intelligence and its standardisation in India.


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