China executes British man by lethal injection

It’s very sad to learn that the Chinese authorities went ahead and executed British national Akmal Shaikh by lethal injection. Although he was caught carrying 4kg of heroin, this was no drugs baron who might have been a continuing threat to Chinese society. He was a weak bit of social flotsam who it appears was suffering a bipolar mental disorder. The fact that he was a Muslim probably isolated him even more.

China should have been bigger and shown compassion even in the face of extreme provocation from a hostile British government eager to scapegoat it over the Copenhagen failure. Brown and Ed Miliband are fully aware that they can’t insult a nation like China and expect them to roll over and comply. We don’t own half the world any more and Brits with drugs in China are likely to press some deep buttons especially in the light of current hostilities and past history.

Under different circumstances there was more than enough of an excuse for China to show leniency. Fahim wrote in an online discussion:

Most death sentences are never actually carried out. A uniquely Chinese sentence system called ‘death penalty with 2 yrs probation’, means that as long as you don’t commit any further offences within 2 yrs your sentence is generally reduced to life. In 2003 a local court sentenced a triad leader to death with 2 yrs probation, but a public outcry led to the supreme court retrying the case which resulted in a death penalty carried out immediately.

But how likely was that with the utter lack of meaningful diplomacy on show from our government and the savaging in the British press? The hypocrisy of some of the media’s breast-beating is sickening in the light of their recent misreporting — we’ll never know for certain if the execution is in part a result of their hollow war-like cries. Newspapers that shrieked “China holds the world to ransom” when it’s now clear that no such thing happened now scream inflammatory headlines about Shaikh. When will you lot cut out the testosterone? It doesn’t help.

But China! I’m glad to hear they wish to phase out the death penalty — 71% of global executions are held there — but now would have been a good place to start. China could have gained the moral high ground by showing mercy to this man and made many more friends in the international community but they got down on the British government’s level and now a man, a political pawn, lies dead.

To those who say they couldn’t care less that a drug smuggler has been executed, let’s hear it from John Donne :

No Man is an island entire of itself; every man is a part of the whole continent. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

It’s forgetting that that is leading us into some dark places.

This is what I’m talking about. Sections of the British media practically declare war on China

Blood and Treasure has this take

Michael White in The Guardian on Why denouncing China is hypocritical A tip of the Miaow chapeau to Harpymarx

UPDATE: 30th Dec 2009 This is one situation where I am pleased to say I was wrong. The eruption of sinophobia at The Independent seems to be at an end with the publication of a balanced leader article that lets no-one off the hook: What this execution doesn’t say about China and Britain

… it would have been an extraordinary gesture of humanity or diplomatic goodwill had the Chinese authorities overruled the court to commute the sentence. That they permitted two of Shaikh’s cousins to pay a farewell visit was itself unusual and suggested that Beijing might not be completely deaf to the pleas from many miles away.

UPDATE: Talking of barbarism, while the media has been feeding us diversionary hysteria over Shaikh’s execution — to which I remain opposed — here’s how Western justice treats the massacre of Iraqi civilians by Blackwater operatives. I do wonder where the front page hysteria was on this occasion.

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24 thoughts on “China executes British man by lethal injection”

  1. If the Chinese govt had held off on this execution, or even shown mercy due to the poor sod's mental condition, they could have spun it to their advantage, occupied the moral high ground and gained massive face as a result, especially after all that Copenhagen provocation.

    At least we're unlikely to hear much pompous grandstanding from the US about this one. When it comes to the death penalty, combine the words 'kettle' and 'pot' to form a well-known phrase or saying …

    '… it ain't him to blame, he's only a pawn in their game.' — Bob Dylan

  2. This is the best piece I have seen on the subject. In fact I was repeatedly coming back hear to see if you had posted on the issue and now you have.

    But I agree. All through the last few days I was simply amazed by the approach of the British foreign office and associated organisations. For people presumably immersed in a world of tactics, strategy and realpolitic, these people showed enormous insensitivity as to the effects of their words and actions. A situation was created in which it would have been difficult for China to show clemency without it looking and feeling as though they had been browbeaten. The condemnation of the execution is absolutely correct. Yet the references by the likes of Ivan Lewis to "the civilised world" and by others to "the dark ages" leaves a bitter taste.

  3. Thanks, Venerable Sage and Third Estate.

    You just know that, had China commuted his death sentence, Gordon Brown would have swanned out wreathed in laurels and claiming this as a personal triumph of his statesmanship. Do we think China would have allowed this to happen?

    Brown would do better to save Gary McKinnon from a fate worse than US gaol.

  4. I found this an interesting piece in the Guardian by Michael White, he makes the valid point about hypocrisy and how the likes of Miliband and Brown keep schtum about the number of people the States executes, disproportionately Black, many have mental health problems and many are innocent (and the schedules for execution next year are still kinda high!!). But hey, there can't be criticism of the States… It is the politics of distraction, 'hey look at them not at us'… that's why it is so hypocritical. The global ruling class are nothing more than a bunch of gangsters. Shakespeare would be proud of the antics.

    And yes, if Brown likes taking the moral high ground then why doesn't he stop Gary McKinnon being sent to the USA..

  5. Geez, the poor executed guy has been forgotten pretty swiftly in these posts. Ah well, he was a nobody and when in doubt make a lot of noise and blame the neighbours eh? Sorry, whats that…oh China executes more people than the rest of the world put together? Oh. Yeah bloody Americas fault that. Probably. Splitters!

  6. HarpyMarx : "…but hey there can't be criticism of the States…"

    What? I mean, wha???? Has this guy ever actually been online.? Ever? The states is just about the most vilified nation around. You know it. You can even attack the Government if you live there. Imagine that.

    Now China. You can't be critical of China. Not if you live there anyway. They will put you away as unwell. Perhaps that's what you meant. China. Not the Uk or Britain. That's why refugees make their way to both locations. Know anyone who ever ran TOWARDS China matey???

  7. In an otherwise commendable piece, one aspect left me confused – you refer to an "utter lack of meaningful diplomacy on show from our government." Is the the lack of publicly demonstrable diplomacy that you are criticising, or are you implying that there was no meaningful diplomacy (public or otherwise)?

    The distinction is important. If it's the latter, how do you know, and, how can I find out? If it's the former, so what? Wouldn't the People's democratic dictatorship prefer negotiations to take place behind closed doors? Couldn't public declarations from the Foreign Office antagonise China?

    I was just wondering whether you could expand on the point you were making. Thanks

  8. Tibet Tim, are you actually reading the original post and the thread?

    I'm grateful to Harpy for reminding us that others also have a savage penal system and it's worth remembering that there's a disproportionate number of poor black men on death row in America.

    My post is an indictment of the death penalty wherever it's found.

    And there are plenty of people who've moved to China to work. So do you have a productive point to make?

  9. Kit, thanks. I meant to flag up that the 27 representations made by the Brit FO to China now appear to be cosmetic in the context of the increasingly hostile tone taken towards China. How can you use gentle persuasion in order to coax out a deal while also bashing them over the head? In this way any diplomatic activity has been rendered meaningless.

    I would ask the classic question: who gains? If the objective is to demonise China for whatever agenda, what better result than this?

  10. Thank you for responding.

    I think you're quite right to criticise UK government's often unnecessary grandstanding when it comes to (not just)China. It is quite possible that it was a factor in this case, although how great a factor is highly questionable.

    As for 'who gains?' It could be something to bring to the negotiating table. "If you agree to let this man with serious mental illness live, then we will shut up about all that egregious stuff you get up to and don't want any one to know about for a while"

    Perhaps that's just wishful thinking

  11. Oh please. You said it. People go there to WORK. China is a big wet money producing nipple for the reckless and greedy to make a buck without too much conscience about what The State is asking. Let me make it clear and ask for your explanation:

    No refugee ever runs toward China. I repeat. No poor, put upon, freedom-denied refugee ever EVER runs toward China.

    And yet you try to make a case for this monstrous interfering bloated state. I note you again have swerved the death penalty and human rights bit again. More than the rest of the world put together.

    Oh I know MM. When driven up a moral cul-de-sac you always say, "I need to find out more about this…" then walk away from it. Check it out. You've done it often recently.

    All broadside, no brain.

  12. Tim, I have debated with Madam Miaow on here previously and such discussions have always been cordial. It is definitely true to say the human rights situation in China is deplorable. I have yet to read anything from our host in which she has stated otherwise. You have weakened your own argument (I presume you may have one Re Tibet) by being rude. Happy Christmas and New Year to all.

  13. Strangely enough, reaction to this event in the USA — where they LOVES them some death penalty — has been remarkably sanguine (not to mention sanguinary) by comparison with the UK — where we haven't carried out an execution since 1964.

    In the States, the response from many bloggers and forum-habitues is along the lines of, 'Yes, and your point is?'

    Seems that these two Great Powers have plenty in common.

  14. you know (get ready to roll those eyes!) I actually hadnt made up my mind about the death penalty until I had watched Oz and a lot of "Lockup". I know Oz is a fictional show, but the social relevance and their unbaised portrayl of death row really conflicted my thoughts on the subject. All I know is i am sooo glad I am not the one who makes those decisions.
    Also i know it is off subject but i hope you had an incredible xmas! email me whenever you get the chance. i would love to hear about your holiday season. do you have any plans for the new years?

  15. Art is one way a society works out these things. I really liked Oz. We caught bits of the first couple of series and we'll probably get the box set. The savagery, especially from the white supremacist bullies, was terrifying.

    Odd to see Spiderman's editor as the uber-bad gay fascist leader of the Aryan Brotherhood.

    I just see the death penalty as being pointless as well as inhumane. Isn't detection supposed to be the No 1 deterrent? If the state already has the crimo in custody, then why kill them. Revenge? That's not the state's job. Who is it who says "vengeance is mine"?

    I guess one of the best movies making the anti-execution case is Kieślowski's A Short Film About Killing.

  16. The creepiest thing about this blog, with it's self-styled dangerous radical outspoken politics is that it seriously tries to cheerlead for China. China! A bizarre online situation which is probably the nearest one will get to a Turkey blogging for more Christmas.

    Ms Miaow – how do you feel about the fact you would be jailed for your blog in China. Not the USA. Not here. Nothing to do with Bush or Blair or whoever you are trying to smokescreen the issue with yet again. China. The monstrous leader in personal oppression.

    Oh I know, you will point out that you have "acknowledged" and "condemned" Chinas censorship probably in one line in an otherwise weighty blog about how awful the Americans and UK are.

    I say it again. No refugee ever makes for China. Why, Ms Miaow? Why? But here or the States? Hmmm.

    Perhaps, poor desperate uneducated things, they don't get the "bigger picture" do they?

    I wonder, have you ever actually spent any time in China? I have.

    Chatter on lefties, chatter on…

  17. Tiny, you are welcome to post opposing views here. I like my ideas being challenged and debate is healthy.

    But this blog is an arena for discussion, not vulgar abuse from cowardly trolls hiding behind anonymous aliases. The next insulting comment from you gets itself deleted and you barred.

  18. Tiny Timid — Madam Miaow is such an enthusiastic cheerleader for every aspect of Chinese governance that this blog is actually banned in China.

    Clearly the concept of calling it as you see it, without surgically attaching yourself to any party, faction, agenda or nation, is somewhat alien to you, as is the practice of occasionally allowing facts to blur your vision.

  19. Tibet Tim: "The creepiest thing about this blog, with it's self-styled dangerous radical outspoken politics is that it seriously tries to cheerlead for China. "

    Nah, Anon Tim, you're creepiest thing at this present time. Debate and argument is not not your MO instead it is abusive apolitical rants. You give absolutely no analysis in your 'argument'.

  20. 'I say it again. No refugee ever makes for China.'

    Oddly enough, TEFL has been trying to tempt me to China. And tempted I was. It sounds a fascinating and beautiful country, but I guess I didn't fancy being thousands of miles away from anyone I knew.

    Didn't see any mention of Blair or Bush in Madam Maiow's article. Anyone would think you hadn't read it or something.

    PS: notice the 'matey' that was a hallmark of another troll I came across once who was slagging off the Greeks as racist because they weren't too keen on the nation that inflicted genocidal violence on them. Then I saw him in a neighbouring forum telling pakistanis to live in caves.

  21. In response to the outcry, some people are now talking about boycotting Chinese goods in protest. They'll start with the traditional clothes made by Chinese children – Nike, Reebok, Banana Republic…

  22. Chinese children don't work in factories unless it's illegally. The problem is about improving conditions for all workers.

    Some of us haven't bought clothes from Primark for ages because of the sweatshop conditions of its workers:

    Sometimes they do fight back:

    If you wish to be better informed about labour struggle in China you could start here:

    But this is, of course, off topic.

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