Australian former TV actor Karm Gilespie was sentenced to death in China on Saturday for smuggling 7.5kg of meth in his luggage at a Hong Kong airport in 2013
China has launched yet another withering attack on Australia as it defended its decision to sentence a Melbourne TV actor to death for drug smuggling.
Karm Gilespie was arrested in December 2013 at a Hong Kong airport with 7.5kg of meth in his luggage, before being sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on June 10 this year.
Gilespie starred in the popular 1990s drama Blue Heelers before he moved into wealth and financial management.
The announcement of his verdict in Chinese local media has attracted strong criticism in Australia – with a friend of Mr Gilespie accusing the communist country’s government of sentencing him to death without due process.
His family issued a short statement pleading for his friends and acquaintances not to ‘speculate on his current circumstances’ which they believe ‘does not assist’ his case.
On Sunday, state-owned newspaper The Global Times claimed Australia had ‘disregarded rule of law’ in a defiant justification of a ‘just’ and ‘fair’ death sentence verdict.
Pictured: Chinese President Xi Jinping on May 22. On Sunday state-owned newspaper The Global Times claimed Australia had ‘disregarded rule of law’ in criticising China’s decision to sentence the Australian drug smuggler to death
‘China is determined to crack down on drug trafficking in strict accordance with law, which should be respected and not intervened by Australia. Drug smuggling is a very serious and harmful crime that should be dealt with harshly,’ the paper published.
‘Some Australian media outlets quoted positive comments about Gilespie from his acquaintances, describing this verdict as unfair and inhumane.
‘They deliberately ignored the fact that the man they are defending is a drug trafficker who was arrested at Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou with 7.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in his check-in luggage.’
The strongly-worded article also repeated claims the publication has made in recent months Australia is acting ‘as a pawn of the US in confronting China’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘If Australia refuses to face up to the issue and correct its policy, it will completely lose its appeal to Chinese students. It’s time for Australia to face up to reality and be able to tell right from wrong,’ the article finishes.
The fierce editorial is the latest state-funded take-down of Australia amid a bitter war of words between the Chinese and Australian governments.
The article follows a story by the publication last week which claimed there had been a ‘significant increase’ in racial discrimination and violence against Chinese and Asian people.
Mr Gilespie was sentenced to death by a court in the Chinese city of Guangzhou almost seven years after he was arrested
His friend Roger Hamilton (left) posted a statement on Facebook telling how he had last seen Mr Gilespie (second from left) in 2013 at a financial forum (pictured), before he ‘disappeared’
‘It is Australia’s unfriendly attitude, not the travel alert, that may really scare away Chinese tourists and students,’ the article read.
The alert warning Chinese travellers not to visit Australia was announced last week by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Friends of Mr Gilespie, 56, have meanwhile expressed their shock at the news of his death sentence and told how they had been trying to find out information about his whereabouts since 2013 without luck.
American entrepreneur Roger Hamilton posted a statement on Facebook telling how he had last seen Mr Gilespie in 2013 at a financial forum, before he ‘disappeared’.
The news comes at a time when diplomatic ties between Australia and China are at an almost all time low, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured with foreign minister Marise Payne) called for an inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic
‘This is a photo of Karm Gilespie (in the red shirt) graduating from our WD Masters 7 years ago. Soon after, Karm disappeared,’ Mr Hamilton wrote.
‘He had been an active member of our community, encouraging others to be the best they could be. He was always there for others, which was why it was so strange that he suddenly disappeared.
‘Today I heard the news of what had happened to him. He has been in a Chinese jail for 7 years and has now been sentenced to death.
‘This is an Australian citizen who has been kept secretly in jail by a foreign government for 7 years before being sentenced to death with no due process.’
Mr Gilespie (right) had a recurring role on popular 1990s drama Blue Heelers before moving into wealth and financial management, which led him to spend an increased amount of time in Asia, away from his hometown of Melbourne
It is understood Mr Gillespie is married and has several children.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Daily Mail Australia they were providing consular assistance.
‘We are deeply saddened to hear of the verdict made in his case. Australia opposes the death penalty, in all circumstances for all people,’ a spokesperson said.
‘We support the universal abolition of the death penalty and are committed to pursuing this goal through all the avenues available to us.’
According to some local media reports Mr Gilespie had left the Hong Kong airport in December 2013, only to be stopped by customs officers outside who allegedly found the methamphetamine in his checked luggage.
Australian and New Zealand citizen Peter Gardner (pictured) has also been in a Chinese prison since 2015 on drugs charges
Local news outlet Ifeng.com reports he was sentenced to death on June 10, but will now have an opportunity to appeal.
‘On the morning of June 10, the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court made a first-instance judgment on the smuggling of drugs by the Australian defendant and sentenced him to death for the crime of drug smuggling,’ the Chinese site said.
The news comes at a time when diplomatic ties between Australia and China are at an almost all time low, after becoming increasingly strained during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gillespie was allegedly carrying more than 7.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in his checked luggage (file image)
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, angering his Chinese counterparts.
A number of Australians are currently being detained in China, including a fellow convicted drug smuggler Peter Gardiner.
Mr Gardiner, a joint Australian and New Zealand citizen, has been behind bars since 2015 after he was caught allegedly trying to smuggle 30kg of methamphetamine into the country.
The Guangzhou (city pictured) Intermediate People’s Court handed down the sentence on June 10
Two Canadians were handed death sentences by China in 2019 amid diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Canadian citizen Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was handed death sentence after a retrial in January 2019.
Fan Wei was sentenced to death in the Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong province three months later.
Canada accused the Chinese government of payback after Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on behalf of the United States.
The United States had accused him of working to evade sanctions against Iran.
He is being detained under house arrest in Canada and fighting extradition to the United States.