According to The Times, China’s Ambassador in London, Fu Ying, was summoned to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office today to hear Britain’s “strong condemnation” of her country’s execution of Akmal Shaikh.
Mr Shaikh, a convicted British drug smuggler who is believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder, was killed by lethal injection early today, despite the personal intervention of Gordon Brown in a telephone call to Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier.
I’m not a supporter of the Death Penalty anywhere at any time. Not that I don’t think that some people don’t deserve to die for what they have done but because when the courts get it wrong, and they do all over the world, it's too late. So whether in China or Texas it doesn’t get my vote.
On the other hand, if you’re going to do a crime abroad, it might be sensible to check up what the penalty is likely to be. Just because you’d only get 5 years in the pokey here, does not mean that that is what you will get abroad. Where the death penalty exists, it exists. Because you are British it doesn’t mean you should expect to avoid it despite Prime Ministerial pleas.
A junior minister Ivan Lewis saw the Ambassador and told her that the execution of Mr Shaikh was totally unacceptable and that China had failed in its basic human rights responsibilities in this case, in particular that China’s court had not considered the representations made about Mr Shaikh’s bipolar condition which is treated by medication. Mr Lewis who said it (the execution) made him “sick to the stomach” neglected at this point to mention the extradition of Gary McKinnon, another person with mental health issues, to the USA, which the same FCO could halt but won’t.
In reply the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “No one has the right to comment on China’s judicial sovereignty. It is the common wish of people around the world to strike against the crime of drug trafficking. We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the British Government’s unreasonable criticism of the case. We urge the British to correct their mistake in order to avoid harming China-UK relations.”
I suggest that only the first part of that statement was unreasonable and totally incorrect. We must have every right to comment on the way that China dealt with this situation.