On June 20, a 23 year-old Beninese businesswoman named Julienne Ahouéfa Abigbé was arrested at Guangzhou-Baiyun airport.

She was caught with illegal drugs smuggled into her suitcases. Mother to a four-year-old child, she hails from the provincial town of Savalou, about 200 kilometres north of Cotonou. She had flown into the Chinese city from Cotonou on an Air France flight, which included a connection in Paris.

Public opinion continues to favour death sentences.

The official business of her company, Ciara Corporate, was the import of hair extensions, and she even posted on Facebook shortly after landing and being caught by customs officers. Abigbé is now facing the death penalty.

Indonesia has been in the news a lot lately, mostly because of hardline President Jokowi’s strong stance on the death penalty, but the People’s Republic of China, which reportedly executes up to 5,000 people each year, more than all other nations combined, has long been known to be particularly ruthless towards drug traffickers.

We believe this young woman should not be executed.

Since the early 1980s, capital punishment has been key to the state’s ‘strike hard’ campaigns against so-called ‘economic crimes’, and sentences tend to be carried out rapidly after judgment. Even though many drug traffickers are now able to avoid capital punishment, public opinion continues to favour death sentences, which are usually executed by means of lethal injection.

Now, even before her trial begins, we must ask: is Abigbé’s economic crime so horrible that it should be punishable by death? We don’t yet know all the facts, but even though capital punishment enjoys widespread support throughout mainland China, we believe this young woman should not be executed.

With a bit of luck she might avoid execution.

Sèdozan Jean-Claude Apithy, Benin’s ambassador to China, has confirmed that the possibility of death is very real, and he has been actively lobbying for his young compatriot. The support she has been receiving on social media means that with a bit of luck she might avoid execution and receive life imprisonment instead.