Canadian detained in China has been released China 05:43

Geraldine Edwards
December 31, 2018

A Chinese court ordered a retrial of a Canadian citizen on drug smuggling charges on Saturday after prosecutors said his sentence of 15 years was too light - a case that could further test relations between Beijing and Ottawa.

Evidence showed it was possible he played an "important role", said the announcement by the Higher People's Court of the northeastern province of Liaoning.

At the appeal hearing, prosecutors argued Schellenberg was likely to part of a worldwide drugs smuggling operation.

Schellenberg played an "important role" in drug smuggling and was potentially involved in worldwide organised drug trafficking activities, said the court, and passed his case back to the lower Dalian court for a retrial without specifying a date.

According to a court statement published online after the appeal hearing, he was found guilty of drug smuggling and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, ordered to pay about $22,000 (150,000 yuan) and to be deported.

It was not immediately clear who Schellenberg's lawyer was or when the retrial may take place.

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Global Affairs Canada Department confirmed that their citizen had been released, but did not name the person.

Both China and Canada had said McIver's case was not related to those of Kovrig and Spavor, who were detained on allegations of harming China's national security.

Global Affairs Canada declined to provide any further information about McIver's return to Canada.

But many observers believe it was retaliation following the early December arrest in Vancouver of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.

The Globe was unable to speak with her family following her release.

Previously, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were detained on "activities that endangered China's national security", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang had said.

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According to previous reporting from Global News, McIver received an administrative penalty for illegal employment, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing.

Authorities have not released any details of the accusations against Schellenberg.

"I would refer you to the competent authority for specifics".

Drug offences are routinely punished severely in China. Gordon Brown, the British prime minister at the time, condemned the killing of Akmal Shaikh, while the man's friends and supporters claimed he was mentally unstable and was unwittingly lured into the crime.

Abigail Bimman looks at what Sarah McIver, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are facing.

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