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December 29, 2009

China creates international row by executing Brit for drug offense

As detailed in this Wall Street Journal article, which is headlined "China Ignores Appeals, Executes Briton," the death penalty is making some interesting international news these days.  Here are the details:

China executed a British national for drug smuggling, sparking outrage from British leaders, who had appealed for clemency on mental-health grounds, and threatening to strain relations between the countries.

Akmal Shaikh, convicted of carrying more than four kilograms of heroin two years ago at Urumqi Diwopu International Airport in northwestern Xinjiang province, was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday after China's Supreme People's Court upheld his death sentence, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported....

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned the execution, saying in a statement that he is "appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted." He expressed his "sincere condolences" to Mr. Shaikh's family and friends. "I am particularly concerned that no mental-health assessment was undertaken," he added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu dismissed the British complaints. At a regular news briefing she said the Chinese government is "strongly dissatisfied and is absolutely opposed to the unjustifiable condemnations" from the U.K. "We urge the British side to show respect to China's judicial supremacy and redress the mistake immediately to avoid damaging bilateral relations," Ms. Jiang said....

Xinhua quoted a statement issued by the Supreme People's Court as saying that that there was insufficient proof that Mr. Shaikh had any mental-health issues and that the evidence against him was "certain and the facts were clear." Mr. Shaikh's rights were fully granted, the court said, adding that drug crimes are serious criminal offenses with "severe negative social impact," according to the Xinhua report.

According to Chinese criminal law, people trafficking more than 50 grams of heroin can be punished by death. Reprieve, a London-based prisoner-advocacy group that lobbied for Mr. Shaikh, said he is the first European to be executed in China in 58 years.

December 29, 2009 at 12:22 PM | Permalink


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I wouldn't say that China caused the row . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Dec 29, 2009 1:11:09 PM

I'm not out to pick a fight here, just to make some observations:

1. It's an odd story of a man with alleged mental health "issues" who committed a drug offense, but we don't get anything like a detailed accounting of either what he did or what the evidence of mental deficiences was.

2. While Britain whines about "strained relations," China behaves like a country that knows it is sovereign and acts that way. The Chinese are well aware that the British, like the Americans, are full of self-doubt and incapable of pulling the trigger on anything that would make a difference to Chinese interests. Among other things, creditors do not bow to debtors. So the British complaint is treated as meaningless.

3. More broadly, it's emblematic of the two countries that England comes hat in hand to plead for a druggie, and China demands that its "system" be respected without providing any particular reason to believe it merits respect. The latter is, after all, a Communist police state, and the former a degraded ex-world power now even further down the road of high-minded decadence than we are.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2009 4:34:46 PM

Why am I not surprised that certain commenters here apparently find no fault with the execution of a man for a non-violent crime by a brutal and repressive regime?

Posted by: Just the usual | Dec 29, 2009 5:19:57 PM

Just the usual --

But you would oppose the execution even if it were for a crime of violence as adjudicated in a democratic country, is that not correct? Indeed, you would oppose the execution no matter what the circumstances, not so?

I don't know the answers to those questions, but I'd be interested to hear them.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2009 5:43:05 PM

federalist --

You and I have been discussing the circumstances for which the DP would be just for a crime not resulting in death. IMO, the DP is fully warranted for the horrifying and stupefyingly cruel non-homicide described in the following link:


If I had not been a prosecutor for many years, and had not seen the cruelty criminals can visit upon the innocent, I would have a hard time believing the story. Unfortunately, I DON'T have a hard time believing it. Nor will I have a hard time wading through the abolitionist response that it's all to be excused by the twinkie defense, or whatever they'll come up with this time.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2009 5:52:43 PM

Without doubt, death should be an option for attempted murder. Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with death for any number of crimes. The only issue, in my mind, is practical, do we want to incentivize murder. I think that certain murders ought to have a mandatory death penalty. I think that deported alien serious felons who are found back in the US ought to be executed. I just don't think that executing dangerous criminals is that big of a deal. They choose to do what they do and have to pay the price.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 30, 2009 9:04:00 AM

Bill--YOU, of all people, read MSNBC!? I'm an avid reader/viewer, but I'm a bleeding heart...never thought I'd find you in my company! But kidding aside, your point is well-taken.

It seems to me that Britain's response goes back to an observation I had in a prior post about Americans being charged with crimes in foreign countries--except that this time, it's Britain claiming that its citizen got railroaded (always--never the citizen's fault for breaking the law). And since the bloodthirsty small-town argument doesn't exist here, I guess mental incapacity--without any evidence, and without any apparent logical connection to the crime charged--is the next best thing. I'm not arguing the merits or demerits of execution for heroin trafficking, but that is China's law, and in China as elsewhere, people are presumed to know the law.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Dec 30, 2009 9:52:35 AM

Res ipsa --

I confess. It's all true. I DO read/watch MSNBC. I've been favorably disposed to them since they called me the day Atkins v. Virginia was decided and wanted to do an interview. I agreed and they aired it. Since their editing avoided making me look like a complete fool, I have been fond of them, sort of, ever since.

But I assure you I balance things out by subscribing to and avidly reading "Bloodlusters Today." I have to have SOMETHING to keep me going.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 30, 2009 2:12:22 PM

Do not go into China. Do not fly over China. The dead guy should have known that the Chinese might kill him for no reason or for a good reason. It is a communist dictatorship. The Brits of all people should keep their tongues glued in when it comes to opium and trading opium (heroin) in China.

Posted by: mpb | Dec 30, 2009 9:01:33 PM

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