Archive for December 29th, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Obituary: Akmal Shaikh, 1956 – 2009

Not every Briton or European will be appalled that Akmal Shaikh was sentenced to death, and executed on Tuesday. “They get away with every excuse” is frequently the tenor uttered by fellow citizens (or a big tabloid) here in Germany when extenuating circumstances lead to an extenuated verdict in our courts. Obviously, you better won’t smuggle drugs anywhere, and if you absolutely have to do it, you’d better not try in China or Singapore.

In Mr Shaikh’s case, a mental disorder – bipolar disorder or manic depression – could have been an extenuating factor. It apparently didn’t count in his trial in Xinjiang, or in China’s Supreme People’s Court’s review of the verdict. The BBC quotes Xinhua as saying that the supreme court hadn’t been provided with any documentation proving that Akmal Shaikh had a mental disorder. If this was really the wording, it should have been the prosecutors’ job to prove that he hadn’t.

In his reaction to Mr Shaikh’s execution, British prime minister Gordon Brown, stated that he was particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken. The China Global Times‘ take of  Mr Shaikh’s mental state in an article of December 24 was that

arguably, Shaikh has a mental disorder. But, China has its own definition of mental illness, and by that he is deemed to be mentally sound.

The fact that Shaikh is the first European to be executed in China in 50 years is sensational enough to stir up public emotion. But viewed in context, the uniform application of sentencing standards for both the Chinese and foreigners underscores the progress of China’s legal system, which is steadily building the principle of rule of law.

If politics plays a role in public emotion elsewhere, it certainly does in the Global Time’s coverage.

For the Chinese side, the case is sensitive because it brings back the black memory of the Opium War started by the British more than a century ago that dragged the country through a lengthy nightmarish period.

The critical limit where the death penalty may apply for drug smugglers or producers is at 50 grams of heroin or 1 kg of opium, China Daily wrote two years ago. It may lead to the death penalty, but the catalog starts with 15-years jail sentences.

It looks pretty bold to say that Akmal Shaikh’s execution were an indication for  progress in China’s legal system.


Expressing myself, November 20, 2009

“End of Laissez-Faire”, Junjie’s China Blog, Dec 30, 2009

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