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Australian sentenced to death in China for drug smuggling

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China Sentences Australian to Death in Fresh Blow to Relations

An Australian citizen has been sentenced to death in China on drug charges.

The Yangcheng Evening News, a state-owned newspaper in Guangzhou city, reported Saturday that Gillespie had been caught with 7.5 kilograms (16.5 pounds) of methamphetamine in his checked baggage in December 2013 for a flight departing from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.

"Australia opposes the death penalty, in all circumstances for all people. We support the universal abolition of the death penalty and are committed to pursuing this goal through all the avenues available to us", the spokesperson said, adding that he wouldn't be able to comment further owing to privacy obligations.

But relations have been troubled in recent years and worsened after China reacted furiously to Australia's call for an independent probe into the origins of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement of the verdict comes amid tense relations between Beijing and Canberra following Australia's support for an global inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, which was first reported in China.

China has in recent weeks banned Australian beef imports and imposed tariffs on Australian barley. "But I'm never going to trade our values in response to coercion from wherever it comes".

Gilespie later moved to Sydney, where he appeared in stage productions and on TV, most notably in popular shows including The Man from Snowy River and Blue Heelers, where he had a recurring guest role and appeared in scenes with Gold Logie victor John Wood.

Fan Wei was sentenced to death in the Jiangmen Intermediate People's Court in Guangdong province three months later.

China's ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye warned in an interview with The Australian Financial Review: "It is up to the people to decide".

China refuses to disclose how many people it executes.

One of the most high-profile cases involved British man Akmal Shaikh, who was executed in 2009 despite claims he was mentally ill and an appeal for clemency from the United Kingdom prime minister.

Gilespie's arrest came before the Australian Federal Police signed the Task Force Blaze agreement with Chinese law enforcement agencies to tackle drug smuggling in 2015. Sherrif was arrested at Guangzhou airport after trying to smuggle methamphetamine between China and Australia.

Many have said the timing of the decision is curious given the initial arrest was back in 2013 but a lawyer who has represented another Aussie who is appealing a suspended death sentence for drug smuggling said the delay is "quite normal".

Friends of an Australian actor and motivational speaker sentenced to death in China have called on the Australian government to step up efforts to secure his release.

Prosecutors allege that he tried to smuggle nearly 227kg (500lb) of methamphetamine from Dalian, in northern China, to Australia.

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