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China: Akmal's death sentence, a resolute No to memory of humiliation?

Categories: East Asia, China, Breaking News, Human Rights, Humanitarian Response, International Relations, Law

Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen convicted of smuggling heroine into China, was executed on Tuesday although his families along with the British government had pleaded for reprieve, claiming that he is mentally ill.

The supreme court of China however dismissed the request of a mental assessment because the documents provided by the British embassy cannot prove that Akmal is mentally disordered.

After the inject of Akmal by lethal injection, the British government and some right organizations reacted fiercely [1]. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned the execution and said he was “”particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken.”

Facing the critique, China expressed strong discontent. [2] The spokesman of foreign ministry said the accusation is groundless and warned that the intervention might damage the bilateral relations between the two countries.

In China, drug trafficking is considered as a felony. Carrying or selling heroine of more than 50 grams will get death penalty according to the Chinese law, and over 4000 grams were found on Akmal.

To many Chinese netizens, the incident reminded them of the 2 Opium Wars fought in 19 century that British troop invaded China because Chinese officials burned up the opium
sold by British. China lost the war and suffered from the “100 years of humiliation” since then.

On 163.com, a major portal website in China, over 3000 people supported a comment left after the news piece, which writes [3]:


What's anything special with a westerner? A drug dealer should definitely be executed.

Acekingfang [4], moreover, thought the execution shows China is rising.

同样是没收“鸦片”、惩办英国毒贩,170年的1839年林则徐的“禁烟”引发清王朝的世纪第一战,英国人靠鸦片和大炮打开了中国的大门…. 1856年清政府在“亚罗号”上逮捕了几名海盗,这一本属于中国内政的事件被英军当做发兵的借口而发动了第二次鸦片战争,150年前的1859年第二次鸦片战争中英法联军在天津大沽口战胜清军,进而向北京城发兵,此年火烧圆明园,烧杀抢掠,虏走中国无数的文物、财宝,使得中华民族遭受历史上最沉重的灾难和损失之一。

Differently, the confiscation of opium and punishment of British drug dealers 170 years ago led to the first war of China in the century, through which the British forced open the gate of China by opium and cannons. 1856 Britain launched the second Opium War, taking the arrest of a few pirates by the Qing dynasty as an excuse. The British-French troop defeated the Chinese army and then marched to Beijing, burning down the Old Summer Palace, and looted away tons of treasures, which was one of the most striking disasters in the Chinese history.


Today when the British drug dealer violated the law on our land, we can openly and rightfully punish him without any mercy. We don't need to follow the order of others any more. This shows that China can be unhappy, and the consequence of provoking China is serious.

zha811's comment [5] demonstrated a similar mentality


If you would return some of the Chinese treasures kept in the British Museum which were robbed away from China, we might take your proposal seriously.

zhun2875 said,


It is our domestic affair. What has that to do with British?

In China, it is long complained that foreigners, in particular westerners, are treated as if they are privileged with a higher status. In 2008, a train made an unscheduled stop [6] in order to send several Japanese passengers to the airport and even police cars were used to escort them. However, in another case [7] a mentally ill Chinese citizen was fastened by the train attendants to the seat and left to death with no one tending him. This time, the court's ruling that treats people equally seems to win applause.

Wang Wen, a editor of Global Times, believes [8]:


After all, the question of who and how to judge a foreign suspect in China has to be addressed according to the law of China. It is a matter of judiciary justice.

Some opinions [9] hold that it is in fact a diplomatic failure of the British government because it doesn't really get to know how Chinese people think. It is echoed by the commentary [10]:


I have my sympathy on Akmal and his family. Death penalty is harsh and, inhumane, as I always think. But as long as China has not yet abolished the penalty, and as long as other criminals are punished in the same way, Akmal should be no exception. Otherwise, a distinction made on purpose will only bring more tragedies.


In the past when China tried to extradite even the terrorists the western countries would often refuse citing the articles in their own law. The most straightforward excuse is the checks and balance of power and the independence of judicature. But this time, Britain seems to have forgotten the principle and put their hope on administrative intervention.


When Britain tried to make the case of something more than itself to force the Chinese administration to compromise the death of Akmal has been fixed. It is easy to see that the 1.3 billion people are weighing the life of Akmal against that of theirs. If the life of a westerner is precious, then ours are worthless?