Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

The fate of convicted Australian drug courier Karm Gilespie, sentenced to death for smuggling methamphetamine in China, sends an ominous message to all Australians in China.

After being held in detention for a stunning seven years, six years beyond what is legal according to the letter of Chinese law (which is often ignored by the authorities as they see fit), it’s impossible to see Gilespie’s swift trial and sentencing as unrelated to the current tension between Canberra and Beijing.

This was underscored with the news that China’s Ministry for Foreign Affiars -- rather than security and justice ministries -- had taken change of all commentary around Gillespie’s case.