Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says the sentencing of an Australian to death in China for drug smuggling should not necessarily be linked to the ongoing friction between the countries.
Karm Gilespie was arrested with more than 7.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in his check-in luggage in 2013 while attempting to board an international flight from Baiyun Airport in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court announced his sentencing on Saturday. The court also ordered that all of Gilespie’s personal property be confiscated.
“This is very distressing for Mr Gilespie and his loved ones, and our government will continue to provided consular assistance,” Senator Birmingham told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
Senior Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said the sentence was “deeply concerning”.
Mr Bowen said drug smuggling was a serious crime, “but the death penalty is never the right answer”.
Senator Birmingham said Gilespie still has a 10-day window to appeal the verdict.
He said Australia condemns the death penalty in all circumstances across all countries.
“This is a reminder to all Australians … that Australian laws don’t apply overseas, that other countries have much harsher penalties, particularly in relation to matters such as drug trafficking,” the minister said.
Mr Bowen said both sides of politics opposed the death penalty.
“The government will have our full support … and we trust and expect they are making the appropriate representations quietly behind the scenes,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Asked whether he thought this incident was linked to the ongoing political row between China and Australia, Senator Birmingham said: “We shouldn’t necessarily view it as such.”