Tuesday 29 December 2009


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.


  1. While I agree that comment must and indeed ought to be made by the Foreign Office when a British subject is condemned abroad, still we must respect Chinese laws.

    To my mind this is anything but a straight forward affair, where there is still conflicting reports going around concerning the exact mental state of the man concerned.

    We ought to treat with care, and while I am a proponent of capital punishment mysel, I understand objections to such proceedures on moral and ethical grounds.
    However I will say this Tris/Munguin, what the man did was a crime under Chinese law, and his rights of appeal and human rigths were respected so far as we can determine.

  2. Dean: You're right. He broke the law and whether we like it or not the law in that country states that execution is the penalty for that crime. The fact that he is British is neither here nor there.

    Whilst we may (or may not) disapprove of the death penalty, and we may say so out loud (although I wonder if we say that about American states that still ahve the death penalty), we have no right whatsoever to interfere with Chinese law, any more than they have right to interfere with Scots law.

  3. PS.... Dean:

    According to the Daily Mail around 90% of the Chinese population are for the death penalty (although I have no idea where they came by that figure; they gave no source), but if it is true, it certainly adds legitimacy to the Chinese government's line that it is no one else's business.

  4. I wonder if we (Britain) are going to break off relations with China over this? No? Did not think so. So what is the point of the toothless British lion whimpering its last. If I had been the Chinese ambassador I would have told the FO to F off.

  5. Munguin:

    Yes, I can just picture wee Ivan there getting all tough with the Chinese Ambassador. NOT.

    She must have been well insulted to go all the way to the foreign office and be met by Milipede's tea boy all red in the face?

    I expect they could send a gunboat, but then they probably haven't got one and if they did they couldn't afford the fuel to get it to China.

    Ivan the Great Pudding!