Robert Lloyd Schellenberg death sentence: China executes foreigners all the time. The case of this Canadian is different

When China handed down a death sentence to a Canadian citizen this week, it sent shockwaves around the world...

Posted: Jan 15, 2019 1:13 PM
Updated: Jan 15, 2019 1:13 PM

When China handed down a death sentence to a Canadian citizen this week, it sent shockwaves around the world.

China rarely executes Westerners. The last high-profile case was in 2009, when British national Akmal Shaikh was executed for carrying 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of heroin at Urumqi Airport.

Asia

Canada

Capital punishment

China

Continents and regions

Controlled substances

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal law

Criminal offenses

Drug crimes

Drugs and society

East Asia

Law and legal system

North America

Sentencing

Societal issues

Society

The Americas

Like the sentencing of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg this week, Shaikh's death sentence prompted outrage in the West and appeals for leniency from his government.

But should we be surprised by Schellenberg's sentence for conspiring to smuggle more than 222 kilograms (489.4 pounds) of methamphetamine from a Chinese port city to Australia?

China is the world's top executioner, according to Amnesty International, sentencing thousands to death every year. China does not disclose execution numbers.

Over the past decade, people from Uganda, South Korea, Japan and Kenya have received death sentences for drug crimes. In 2016, the Nigerian senate reportedly heard that 120 of its citizens were on death row in China.

Many foreign nationals awaiting execution come from countries with good relations with Beijing, demonstrating that -- outside the West -- China makes no exceptions for drug offenders, whatever the diplomatic cost.

End of Western leniency?

It is no secret that the Chinese government is tough on drugs, says Maya Wang, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch China, noting that Beijing has previously detained illegal substance users in labor detention centers.

China is surrounded by drug-producing nations. In 2017, China's annual drug report said there were 2.55 million drug abusers in the country, a 2% rise over the previous year.

But in the past, Westerns often enjoyed softer sentences for such crimes -- and better treatment in detention -- to ease diplomatic relations and avoid international criticism, says Wang.

"The case here, in which a Western citizen is being given a death sentence in China is highly unusual," she added. "There's no doubt about that."

Initially, Schellenberg was seemingly the recipient of such leniency. On November 20, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for being an accessory to drug smuggling. But he appealed his conviction and at his retrial this week -- more than a month after top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver, accused by the United States of helping cover up violations of sanctions on Iran -- he was convicted of a primary role in the smuggling and was sentenced to death.

That is a break in protocol for China's deeply politically entwined judicial system.

Other Western citizens executed by China have been born in non-Western countries: Shaikh was born in Pakistan and, in 2010, a Lao-born Frenchman was sentenced to death. That potentially muddies the waters over which foreign government the Chinese would square off with.

However, the implications of executing a Canadian-born Canadian citizen are clear, and raise important questions: Is Schellenberg's case an isolated example of political retaliation, or does it hint at a new precedent in China of Western drug offenders facing the same treatment as those from the rest of the world?

As China's economic and political might grows, the age of leniency for Westerners there just might have expired.

Huntsville
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 75°
Florence
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 78°
Fayetteville
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 74°
Decatur
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 76°
Scottsboro
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 137564

Reported Deaths: 2399
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19938351
Mobile13507293
Montgomery8866185
Tuscaloosa8837118
Madison798179
Shelby607449
Lee597161
Baldwin560650
Marshall397543
Calhoun355644
Etowah354845
Morgan333428
Houston293921
Elmore271948
DeKalb244321
St. Clair235936
Walker235485
Talladega217830
Limestone214420
Cullman191920
Dallas179826
Franklin179130
Autauga178727
Russell17683
Lauderdale175133
Colbert167726
Blount162115
Escambia161624
Jackson159712
Chilton159530
Covington140727
Dale140344
Coffee13716
Pike121611
Chambers117542
Tallapoosa117185
Clarke110316
Marion97529
Butler91740
Barbour8867
Winston75013
Marengo72620
Pickens67014
Randolph66613
Lowndes65927
Bibb65810
Hale64928
Geneva6444
Lawrence63425
Cherokee61713
Bullock60714
Clay5918
Monroe5908
Washington56012
Crenshaw54332
Perry5426
Conecuh53911
Wilcox53211
Henry5105
Macon48318
Fayette4689
Sumter43719
Cleburne3945
Lamar3822
Choctaw35112
Greene30515
Coosa1743
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 194611

Reported Deaths: 2420
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby31097466
Davidson26797311
Hamilton963495
Knox960579
Rutherford945290
Williamson536636
Sumner489598
Wilson356247
Putnam336541
Montgomery313344
Unassigned30444
Madison299265
Out of TN297727
Bradley297217
Sevier266415
Blount256324
Maury242725
Washington235538
Robertson223939
Sullivan223133
Hamblen194828
Tipton184519
Gibson172624
Trousdale16697
Hardeman158426
Wayne15015
Dyer142017
Bedford137317
Dickson128015
Coffee127713
Fayette122719
Cumberland121919
Weakley121620
Anderson121013
Obion120211
Loudon11996
Henderson119125
Carter118028
Greene116946
McMinn116325
Jefferson114414
Lawrence108913
Warren10777
Macon106721
Monroe106618
Hardin105516
Lauderdale100316
Haywood99821
Franklin99410
Lake9252
McNairy92518
Carroll91320
Roane9126
Bledsoe8624
White85510
Rhea85413
Hawkins82720
Cheatham8199
Marshall7815
Overton7706
Cocke75310
Smith74011
Johnson7323
Chester65011
Giles64417
Lincoln6331
Henry6309
Hickman6008
DeKalb57414
Marion5518
Fentress5463
Crockett54419
Decatur5347
Campbell4614
Claiborne4455
Polk40710
Grainger3943
Union3762
Benton3418
Jackson3325
Morgan3213
Grundy3176
Cannon2950
Unicoi2911
Humphreys2673
Sequatchie2441
Clay2355
Houston2343
Meigs2323
Stewart2212
Scott2192
Lewis2081
Moore1831
Van Buren1660
Perry1530
Pickett1262
Hancock1073

Community Events