Li Ang was sentenced to life in prison, according to Zhao's family.
Defence lawyer Zou Jiaming said the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court ruled Thursday that Li committed "intentional homicide." He plans to appeal the verdict, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.
A Canadian diplomat was in the court Thursday, but would not comment.
Zhao, 21, had come to Canada to study English and was living in Burnaby, B.C., with Li at the time of her disappearance on Oct. 9, 2002. Hikers found her body stuffed into a suitcase nearly two weeks later near Mission, B.C., 80 kilometres east of Vancouver.
Li, who was 18 at the time, was a suspect but fled to China shortly after the discovery, leading to lengthy diplomatic and legal wrangling between Canadian and Chinese authorities over who would prosecute the case.
Canada tried unsuccessfully to extradite Li, but eventually agreed to help Chinese investigators after Beijing said it would not seek the death penalty. China maintained that it had jurisdiction because the case involved two Chinese nationals.
In 2009, police in China arrested Li based on evidence provided by the RCMP.
Zhao had been in Canada for more than a year when she disappeared. Li told police his girlfriend went to the grocery store and never came back.
An autopsy determined she had been strangled.