China sentences Australian to death in fresh blow to relations
SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian man was sentenced to death in China, the authorities said on Saturday. This development could further intensify tensions between the two countries.
The Australian Department of State and Commerce said it offers consular support to the man without identifying him.
Australian and Chinese media have identified the man as Cam Gillespie, who was arrested for drug trafficking in southern China seven years ago.
China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. Attempts to reach Gillespie's family have been unsuccessful.
"We are deeply saddened by the verdict in his case," the Australian State Department said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
"Australia is opposed to the death penalty for all people at all costs. We support the general abolition of the death penalty and are committed to pursuing this goal in all possible ways."
According to several media reports, Cam Gillespie was arrested in 2013 with more than 7.5 kg of methamphetamine in check-in luggage when he tried to board an international flight from Baiyun Airport in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Canberra have escalated since Australia called for an international investigation into the source and spread of the new corona virus that occurred in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
China has banned Australian beef imports and tariffs on Australian barley in recent weeks. It has also asked Chinese tourists to avoid Australia.
The death sentence for drug smuggling is not uncommon in China, where executions are usually carried out by firing squads.
Last year, the country sentenced two Canadians to death for drug-related crimes following the arrest of Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou, saying it was "not in the least concerned" because of international concern over the verdict.
(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Additional reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by William Mallard)
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