Though the story has faded from the headlines over the past 18 months (as the coronavirus and China's efforts to obscure its origins has superseded other diplomatic struggles), a Chinese judge has just rejected a Canadian man's last attempt to appeal a death sentence for smuggling drugs.
The timing is notable, coming one day before a Canadian man accused of espionage (one of two Canadian nationals arrested and charged with espionage) is expected to be sentenced in a case that Ottawa has decried as political retribution for the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
The court proceedings for the two Canadians comes as lawyers in Canada representing Meng, who is still under house arrest in Canada as she awaits a ruling on extradition to the US, make a final push to convince a court there not to extradite her to the US, where she faces charges linked to violating sanctions.
The convicted drug smuggler, Robert Schellenberg, was arrested in 2014 and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in late 2018.
He appealed, but a court in the city of Dalian sentenced him to death in January 2019, a month after Meng was first arrested at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the US, charging her with misleading HSBC Holdings about Huawei's business dealings in Iran, potentially causing the bank to violate American economic sanctions.
Around the same tie, two Canadian businessmen were arrested and later charged with espionage.
The High Court in the northeast province of Liaoning heard Schellenberg's appeal against the death sentence in May last year and confirmed the verdict on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters by telephone after attending the hearing, Canadian ambassador to Beijing Dominic Barton criticized the decision and demanded that China grant clemency.
"It is not a coincidence that these are happening right now, while the case is going on in Vancouver," Barton said, referring to Schellenberg's case and that of another Canadian, Michael Spavor.
Spavor was detained in China days after Meng's arrest in Vancouver. He was charged with espionage in June last year and went to trial in March.
China has rejected the claim that any of the cases were politically motivated.