The Case of Akmal Shaikh

(The Observer)  Mentally ill Briton faces execution for smuggling heroin into China   By Mark Townsend.  October 11, 2009.

A British man is facing execution after being convicted of smuggling heroin into China. Akmal Shaikh, 53, from north London, was arrested after a suitcase he was carrying was allegedly found to contain 4kg of the drug, with a value of £250,000. Shaikh, who is said to be severely mentally ill, will become the first British citizen to be executed in China; his lawyers warn that he could be killed imminently by a gunshot to the back of his head. Foreign Office officials said there were reports last week that his second appeal had failed, but had yet to receive "official confirmation" or any news from the Chinese authorities.

Emails seen by the Observer reveal that Shaikh was recruited in a sting operation involving criminal figures in Poland, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. His defence was that he was duped by the gang and had no knowledge of the drugs. Shaikh, who is married to an Englishwoman and has five children, genuinely believed the gang were his friends and were grooming him for pop stardom. In fact, say lawyers and friends, he was, and is, suffering from delusional psychosis.

Despite being given evidence of his mental condition, the Chinese authorities have refused to conduct a psychological assessment of the Briton and did not take his mental illness into account. During a court appearance to plead his innocence, witnesses said that such was the incoherent nature of his 50-minute speech that those in the courtroom openly laughed.

Shaikh, who is imprisoned in the isolated north-western city of Urumqi, was the victim of an elaborate ruse to exploit his mental condition, say his supporters. Yet only five years ago he appeared to have a stable life, running a successful successful minicab firm in Kentish Town with his wife. Shaikh's former solicitor said that as recently as 2003 Shaikh was a "charming and charismatic man". However, his mental state deteriorated sharply soon afterwards, said the solicitor, and the following year he left London for Poland, where he planned to set up an airline despite having no financial means. "By the time he went over to Poland you could not even sit down and have a conversation with him," said Shaikh's former solicitor.

In Poland Shaikh's mental state worsened after a relationship with a new girlfriend foundered. Requesting anonymity, she said Shaikh began to act in a "really silly and crazy way" and cited such incidents as the time he sent her a fake letter claiming to show he had won £1m. Emails sent by Shaikh to the British embassy in Warsaw in 2007, when he appears to have been befriended by Polish heroin traffickers he met in the city of Lublin, expose his vulnerable state of mind. Among them are claims by Shaikh to have spoken to the angel Gabriel and how he could have prevented the 7 July bombings in London had he been allowed to hold a press conference in Lublin. Typical of the hundreds of emails he sent to embassy staff in Warsaw is one that states: "Hey old chap u have any marshmallows. i man luvly bonfire u must roast some marshmellows I mean that's NOrMal." Another reads: "There is no such thinG as an englishmaN I mean king harold got it smack bang center in the EYE. its just not cricket anymore."

Some messages were sent to a group of 74 individuals and organisations including Tony Blair, Sir Paul McCartney, the Fathers 4 Justice campaign group, Scotland Yard, the BBC programme Top Gear and President George W Bush, who is referred to as "Bushie". But the emails also chart how Shaikh met the Polish criminals, in particular a character called Carlos with whom he claims to have composed a song and who promised Shaikh he could turn it into a hit record. Carlos told him he had excellent contacts in the music business and they would help him achieve success. In September 2007 Carlos paid for a flight for Shaikh to Kyrgyzstan.

There, his passport was taken by some unnamed men, although Shaikh seems unperturbed because at that stage he believed he was on the brink of international fame and "would not need it".Shaikh's passport was later returned, along with a flight ticket to China, and he was introduced to a man called Okole who would escort him to Urumqi. Okole, according to Shaikh, ran a huge nightclub in China and promised the Briton that he could perform his song there. They left for China on 8 September 2007, stopping en route in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In Dushanbe, Okole informed Shaikh that the British man would have to travel alone to China because there was only one seat left on the plane. Okole gave him a suitcase and promised to follow on the next flight. Shaikh landed in Urumqi airport on 12 September and was arrested after his suitcase was scanned.

Shaikh is understood to have co-operated fully with the police, explaining that the suitcase did not belong to him and he had no knowledge of the heroin. He even organised a "sting" operation, telling officers to wait for Okole when he arrived from Tajikistan. Okole never turned up. "It is highly likely that these professional drug smugglers knew that he was suffering from a mental illness and could be readily manipulated," said Stafford-Smith.

Two months after his arrest Shaikh was sentenced to death. The British government, however, was not told until almost a year later, in November 2008. Last May Shaikh's appeal against his sentence at the district court in Urumqi was rejected, leaving a final appeal in the Supreme People's Court to save his life, which is now reported to have failed. Prisoners can be executed "almost immediately" after a second appeal has been rejected.

His brother Akbar said: "Akmal has struggled for many years with what we now know to be a serious mental illness. We are all very worried for his safety as we know he is unable to defend himself properly. He will be extremely disorientated and distressed. We are praying that the Chinese courts will see that he is not of sound mind and prevent his execution."

Dr Peter Schaapveld, a London-based consultant clinical and forensic psychologist, said: "If this case occurred in Britain, mental health issues would be played all the way through the process: Should he be charged? Should be found guilty at all? Should his condition ameliorate the sentence?" Schaapveld flew to China five months ago to evaluate Shaikh's mental condition but the authorities refused to let him see the prisoner. However, foreign office officials were allowed to spend 15 minutes with Shaikh. From their description of Shaikh's behaviour, Shaapveld was able to deduce with "99% certainty" that he was suffering from a mental disorder that could either be bipolar or schizophrenia.

(The Observer)  China must show mercy   By Clifford Stafford Smith.  October 24, 2009.

Given that China doles out 140 death sentences each week, it is not surprising that every now and then one makes the international news. Indeed, the cases have been making more headlines than normal of late, with half a dozen rioters in Urumqi scheduled to die, and another six people condemned in a crackdown on crime syndicates. However, perhaps the case that strikes closest to home is the imminent execution of the bipolar British citizen, Akmal Shaikh.

The case raises stark questions to which there are no immediate answers. How could a man be edging so close to the death chamber when he is so patently unwell? Shaikh had a mental breakdown in 2003, went penniless to Poland to establish an airline, soon became homeless there, then travelled to China on a promise that he could record his bestselling song that he believed would establish world peace ¡V with its uniquely compelling lyric, "come little rabbit, come to me". He denies knowing about the drugs in a suitcase he was asked to carry, and evidence we have developed at Reprieve tends to support his claim. But even the cynic must recognise the ancient principle that mental illness is its own punishment, and should think long and hard before we execute someone who is so disturbed.


It must be said that China does not have a monopoly on human fallibility ¡V 138 innocent prisoners have been exonerated from America's death rows since 1973, and Britain would have executed several innocent Irishmen had we not already abolished the death penalty. But Shaikh's case should prompt us to examine the enormity of the death penalty in China.

Precise figures on executions in China are said to be a state secret (which makes it difficult to understand how anyone can claim much of a deterrent impact). However, at a conservative estimate, about 2,000 people are executed each year for offences ranging from violent crimes of murder to property offences. China has two methods of execution ¡V a single bullet, or lethal injection. Since 1997 the Chinese have employed execution vans, reminiscent of the mobile electric chair that used to tour certain American states in the 30s. About 40 converted buses tour the country, each with a gurney in a windowless chamber at the back, delivering a form of justice to the far-flung provinces.

Abolition is not an impossible goal. The death penalty was banned in China during the Tang Dynasty, between 747 and 759, which certainly put it ahead of any European nation at the time. More recently, a Chinese official suggested that the end of the death penalty might be inevitable, but that conditions in the country were not yet right to end it. Even though 2,000 executions a year is an unimaginable number, since 140 death sentences are passed each week, this means seven out of 10 are escaping the ultimate fate through some kind of post-trial intervention.

For example, in 2007, the people's supreme court announced it would review all death sentences. In July of this year, the vice-president of the court announced a tightening of the rules, which would reduce the frequency of executions. This appears to have cut the number by a third. China also has a unique alternative, a two-year "suspended" death sentence. If the prisoner behaves himself in prison for that time, the sentence is converted to life.

Justices on the US supreme court have periodically been heard to complain about the burden that the death penalty imposes on them, with one capital case coming up for review every few days. The imposition on the Chinese supreme court under the new system is far greater, with scores of sentences to review each week. Apparently a justice from the court actually visits the condemned prisoner, a human touch that no American justice would ever contemplate.

It is not clear what Shaikh's prospects are, particularly if he talks to the justice. He is certainly his own worst enemy since, in common with many who are mentally ill, he thinks there is nothing wrong with him. My own father was also bipolar, and was the same way. He would much rather have been deemed bad than mad.

In theory, Chinese law provides for various ways in which his bipolar disorder ought to be considered. Under the Chinese criminal code, mental illness can result in outright acquittal or a reduced sentence, and China has signed up to an international convention that mandates full access to a clemency process, though it is not clear to whom one applies for mercy.

Yet nothing can be taken for granted, in part because there is so little familiarity with the illness in China. There are indications that bipolar disorder is partially genetic, and the incidence of the illness appears to be very much lower among ethnic Chinese living in the west than ethnic Europeans. While it is important for Britain not to denigrate the Chinese legal system ¡V after all, they have had one for much longer than we have ¡V it is nevertheless crucial that Shaikh receive solid support.

Stephen Fry has certainly done his part, recording a video and tweeting the case to his 750,000 correspondents ¡V Reprieve's website barely withstood the hundreds of hits a second we received in response. The Foreign Office site did not, and unfortunately crashed, but at least this served to illustrate the widespread interest in the sad fate of Shaikh. The British government listened, and Gordon Brown immediately raised the case with visiting Chinese dignitaries. Let us hope that there are enough people listening where it matters.

(Times Online) China defends decision to execute drug-smuggling Briton Akmal Shaikh  By Jane Macartney.  December 22, 2009.

China vigorously defended its justice system today, a day after its Supreme Court rejected the final appeal from a Briton who faces the death penalty on charges of drug-smuggling. The case of Akmal Shaikh, 53, from London, has prompted several appeals from Gordon Brown to China¡¦s leaders to exercise clemency towards a man who reportedly suffers from mental health problems.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said: "China¡¦s judicial authorities independently handled this case in accordance with the law. Drug-smuggling is a grave crime in international practice." She rejected charges from groups supporting Mr Shaikh that the courts had refused to allow independent assessments of the Briton¡¦s mental health. "During the entire process, the litigation rights and the relevant rights and interests of the defendant were fully respected and guaranteed. China has offered prompt consular information to the UK and arranged consular visits."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that the Chinese authorities had confirmed the execution would take place on December 29. The FCO said it was ¡§alarmed and deeply concerned" at the news that the final appeal had been denied. It also said it regretted that Chinese officials had not taken Mr Shaikh's mental health into account despite repeated requests by Mr Brown, government ministers and the European Union. If the death penalty is carried out, Mr Shaikh would become the first national from a European Union country to be executed in China in decades.

The British prisoners' rights charity, Reprieve, which has been campaigning on behalf of Mr Shaikh, said he would become the first EU national to be put to death in China in 50 years. Diplomats have said an Italian national was executed during the chaotic Cultural Revolution in the 1970s. Reprieve said it has medical evidence that Mr Shaikh, who is married with three children, suffered from a delusion that he was going to China to record a hit single that would usher in world peace. However, he was duped by a criminal gang into unwittingly carrying drugs for them into China, Reprieve alleged, saying that his strange behaviour was "influenced or caused by" his mental illness. Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve¡¦s director, said: ¡§I just spoke to Akmal¡¦s brother about this terrible news, and it is impossible to imagine what Akmal¡¦s family are going through this holiday season. This is no time for pride ¡V they beg the Chinese authorities to show compassion and take Akmal¡¦s mental health problems into account.¡¨

(The Guardian)  Family plead for life of mentally ill Briton facing execution in China   By Vekram Dodd.  December 22, 2009.

Akbar Shaikh, at times overcome with emotion as he spoke, said his family were running out of time to save his only brother: "We as a family are relying on Gordon Brown to make representations on our behalf. I'm sure Gordon Brown and David Miliband [the foreign secretary] and other members of the government are doing all they can to bring to the attention of the Chinese authorities our plight, our plea for mercy, and that's all we can ask." Akbar Shaikh said his mother is so ill she cannot be told that her youngest child faces execution within days. Akbar Shaikh said: "It's very traumatic ¡K I'm trying my best to keep the family together. If she knows what the true story about what has happened to my brother, I don't think she will survive the shock. "Executing him will not serve any purpose. By executing him not only will they be taking his life, it will have an impact on the rest of the family."

... Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, called the threatened execution "not only an affront to the human rights of mentally ill people, but [a display of] apparent ignorance of the impact that mental illness can have on a person's behaviour". She added: "This makes them easy prey to criminals such as those who persuaded [Shaikh] that he could bring about world peace by recording his pop song in a remote province of China. Why is there not a greater outcry, so that this sick man receives psychiatric assessment and treatment rather than a bullet to the head?"

(CNN)  China defends case against Briton facing execution    December 22, 2009.

Reprieve claims Shaikh may be suffering from bipolar disorder, a severe mental condition characterized by delusional and manic behavior. The group claims Chinese authorities have refused requests for Shaikh to be examined by a doctor and for his mental condition to be taken into account during his trial and sentencing.

"We deeply regret that mental health concerns had no bearing on the final judgment despite requests by Mr. Shaikh's defense lawyer and repeated calls by the Prime Minister, Ministers, members of the Opposition, as well as European Union," the Foreign Office said. A spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN in October there was no evidence of mental illness. "The British Embassy and a British organization proposed to have a psychological exam but could not offer any proof of mental illness," the spokesman said. "The defendant himself said that his family does not have a history of mental illness."

(BBC)  Death row Briton's daughter says he is 'mentally ill'   December 23, 2009.

Chinese death penalty expert Professor Christopher Stone told the BBC the death sentence was "heavily used" in China but the exact figures were a "state secret".

Prof Stone, of Harvard University, said estimates over the past five years reached a height of about 10,000 death sentences a year, but a "genuine reform process" had brought the figures down. He said death sentences were handed down for various crimes including murder, corruption and drug trafficking. The death sentence was "hugely popular" in China and had the support of between 80-95% of the population, he said. 

Prof Stone said the authorities would not want to be seen to make an exception for a foreign man but the issue of mental illness was an important consideration in Chinese law. "The Chinese law is actually pretty careful about mental health issues," he said. "They have special dispensations, special rights, greater right to counsel. In this case, the issue of mental illness seems not to have been raised until after the trial was over and the death sentence had been handed down."

Jonathan Fenby, China director at the research service Trusted Sources, said the chances of a reprieve were "small" and there was a "whole pattern at the moment" of China playing "things fairly tough". "China does not react well usually to pressure from outside," he said. "The Chinese would see this as an interference with their internal affairs, which is the thing they are most resistant to."

(Reuters)  China Signals No Clemency For British Drugs Mule.  December 24, 2009.

China looks set to ignore an appeal by Prime Minister Gordon Brown not to execute a British man convicted of drug smuggling. A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London said on Thursday that Britain's concerns had been noted, but added Akmal Shaikh had been convicted and sentenced to death for a serious drug trafficking offence based on "solid evidence." "All cases of drug trafficking are dealt with according to law, regardless of nationality," he added in a statement. "Even in the UK, he would be punished severely for his crime." "The concerns of the British side have been duly noted and taken into consideration by the Chinese judicial authorities in the legal process, and Mr. Shaikh's rights and interests under Chinese law are properly respected and guaranteed," the embassy spokesman said. But drug trafficking is a "grave crime worldwide" and undermines social stability, he added. "To apply the death penalty to serious drug trafficking is helpful to pre-empt and prevent drug trafficking," he said.

(Global Times)  Diplomacy cannot undo law of the land   December 24, 2009.

Death penalty is an emotive issue. It has evoked unending debate over life, justice and righteousness. The controversy over whether Akmal Shaikh should be executed is further clouded by a number of unrelated issues between China and the UK.

Akmal Shaikh, a British national, was sentenced to death in October by the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi for drug-trafficking. The Supreme People's Court upheld the verdict Tuesday.

From the British side, groups trying to save Shaikh's life line up a range of reasons, from China's human rights record to Shaikh's mental situation. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stepped in with a fresh appeal asking the Chinese government for clemency. Even the diplomatic row between China and the UK over the conclusions of the climate change conference weighed in.

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. China also has a history of public opinion supporting severe penalties for serious crime.

If the extraneous reasons are put aside, Shaikh's verdict is not complicated. He was caught red-handed on Chinese soil for attempting to traffick 4 kilograms of heroine, valued at 250,000 pound sterling($399,694) ¡V a crime serious enough to be handed the death sentence. 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. The rule ¡V that you have to abide by the law of the country you are in ¡V should be respected.

The note of urgency underlying Brown's intervention might put the Chinese government in a dilemma, in trying to separate a domestic legal case from diplomatic bickering. Britain scrapped capital punishment in 1998 after much, and prolonged, deliberation. Throughout the world, whether to retain or repeal death penalty is still debated for its legal as well as moral pros and cons.

China cannot do away with death penalty at present because of strong public opinion against repealing it. After all, death penalty acts as a deterrent to serious crime. But, with the country applying a stricter review process for death penalty, the number of executions is falling gradually. Besides, the method of execution has become more humane ¡V with the use of a lethal injection instead of a firing squad.

The diplomatic contest over the life of Shaikh reflects the different stages of development of the legal system and legal consciousness in China and Britain. At a time when China is modernizing its legal framework, perhaps, it deserves more understanding in the current situation. Muddled compromise is no solution. The verdict should be based on the law of China.

(  You Will Be Shot In The Morning.  By Stephen White.  December 29, 2009.

The British dad convicted of smuggling drugs into China was only told yesterday he was to be shot dead this morning. Frantic eleventh-hour appeals by UK diplomats and distraught relatives of troubled Akmal Shaikh appeared to have failed. His execution was scheduled to go ahead at 10.30am in the Chinese city of Urumqi - 2.30am our time.

One of Shaikh's cousins, Seema Khan, 54, of Chigwell, Essex, said: "He's not rational and needs medication. A pardon would allow him to get the help he needs as well as the healing love from his family. "We pray he will be reprieved. He'd never knowingly be involved in something like this."

Another cousin, Latif Shaikh, 41, also from Chigwell, said the whole family was "devastated". He said Akmal's mother, who is in her 80s, and lives in North London, knew he was in prison but was unaware that he faced the death penalty. He feared the shock could kill her. He added: "This execution will take two lives without a doubt."

(Herald Sun)  UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemns China's execution of British father Akmal Shaikh    December 29, 2009.

BRITISH Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed that China executed a British national today, which he condemned "in the strongest terms''. Akmal Shaikh, 53, a father of three from London, was sentenced to death after being arrested in possession of 4kg of heroin in 2007. Chinese officials had vowed to press on with the execution, scheduled for 10:30 local time (14:30 AEDT), despite several appeals for clemency from UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and direct appeals from the condemned man's family, who said Shaikh was mentally ill.

His family expressed their grief at his death, and thanked those who tried to stop the sentence being carried out. "The family express their grief at the Chinese decision to refuse mercy," they said in a short statement. They wished to "thank all those who tried hard to bring about a different result - including Reprieve, the FCO, those who attended the vigil, and the organisers of the Facebook group who garnered more than 5000 members in a few short days; and ask the media and public to respect their privacy as they come to terms with what has happened to someone they loved."

In the minutes before Shaikh was due to be put to death, members of the Facebook page Stop the Execution of Akmal Shaikh logged on to send messages of support. "AKMAL SHAIKH's life is in countdown, god bless him!" wrote Ken Chan, one of the page's 6000 plus members. The number of the page's supporters increased by about 500 in the final hours before his execution time.

Shaikh said goodbye to his two cousins Soohail and Nasir Shaikh yesterday, when they visited him at a secure hospital cell in the western Chinese city of Urumqi.

(Sky News)  Anger after British man executed in China.  By David Williams.  December 29, 2009.

The family of the Briton executed in China for drug smuggling have spoken of their shock at his death as Beijing came under attack from the UK government.

Gordon Brown offered his condolences to the family of 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh after the Foreign Office confirmed his death by lethal injection, which is understood to have taken place at 2.30am GMT.

The father-of-three's hopes of a last-minute reprieve were doomed as China's supreme court approved his death sentence.

Mr Shaikh's family and supporters say he was seriously mentally ill and was duped into carrying the drugs unknowingly by a gang. Campaigners said the courts in China failed to commission an assessment of his medical condition in spite of his obvious mental illness, believed to be bipolar disorder.

His cousins, brothers Soohail and Nasir Shaikh who visited him in the hours before his death, said in a statement they were "deeply saddened, stunned and disappointed".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms, and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted."

But a statement from the Chinese embassy in London defended the execution. "During the legal process, Mr Shaikh's rights and interests were properly respected and guaranteed and the concerns of the British side were duly noted and taken into consideration by the Chinese judicial authorities," it said.

(China Daily)  Internet users back China's decision on UK drug smuggler.  December 29, 2009.

Internet users at the main Chinese portals such as and praised China's decision to approve the death penalty for British drug smuggler Akmal Shaikh. The news report ranks No.1 on the "top 10 news stories with most comments" list at A large proportion of the views expressed support for the decision from the Supreme Court of China.

A reader named "River of Justice" said: "Everyone is equal before the law. No matter who he is, a Chinese or a foreigner, the result is the death penalty when he commits such a crime." Another reader named "Du Yunqing" wrote: "In the past, we weren't able to kill a foreigner who commits a crime (on Chinese land) because you (British) got the consular jurisdiction using guns and cannons; Nowadays, you stop interfering on our own land where we have the right to do so."

A reader named "freefool" said: "the supreme court of China set a good example in maintaining its independence of jurisdiction." Another unnamed user from Wenzhou, Zhejiang province said: "it's a slap on the face of those arrogant Europeans."

British web users also commented on the issue which was of great concern to the British government. "Matthew Turner", a commentator at, wrote: "Good for China. As an Englishman I respect the Chinese decision to enforce the laws of their own land..." Another named "Samuel Allen" wrote: "It's never pleasant to hear of another man's execution, but the law is the law. If you do the crime, you must do the time."

(Xinhua)  Experts defend China's execution of British drug smuggler   By Miao Xiaojuan.  December 29, 2009.

China has upheld the independence and integrity of its justice system, as would any other country, in the trial and execution of British drug smuggler Akmal Shaikh, say legal experts, refuting criticisms of China's human rights record and lack of clemency.

    Shaikh, a 53-year-old British man, was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. He had been convicted of carrying up to 4,030 grams of heroin at Urumqi International Airport from Dushanbe, capital of Tajikstan, on Sept. 12, 2007.

    China's Criminal Law stipulates that the trafficking of more than 50 grams of heroin is punishable by death. "According to China's Criminal Law, the death sentence given to him is legitimate and it has nothing to do with human rights concerns," said Wang Mingliang, professor of criminal law at Shanghai-based Fudan University. "Some Western countries also retain capital punishment, and its existence does not equate to a lack of human rights," Wang said.

    Xue Jinzhan, professor of criminal law at the East China University of Political Science and Law, also in Shanghai, said the administration of the death penalty related to a country's history, culture and other conditions. China strictly enforced the law without discrimination in handling the case, Chinese legal experts told Xinhua. "It's human nature to plead for a criminal who is from the same country or the same family, but judicial independence should be fully respected and everyone should be equal before the law," Xue said.

    Wang said it could be understood that British media ran emotional stories and local people reacted with sorrow or anger as Britain did not retain the death penalty. "But one country should respect judicial independence of another country, without any interference in internal affairs," Wang said. "Shaikh's case serves as a testimony to China's judicial justice, which deserves full respect from other countries."

    Western reports said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned Shaikh's execution in a statement issued on Tuesday and that Brown had even personally spoken to a senior Chinese leader about the case. "It would have interfered with China's judicial authority if the senior leader had accepted Brown's request. How could a criminal be exempted from the death penalty only because he was British?" Wang said.

    Experts said courts in China had the right to decide whether a psychiatric assessment was necessary. "The court, based on available evidence, decided not to do the assessment, and it was strictly in line with the law," Wang said.

    China's Supreme People's Court on Tuesday issued a statement, saying it had reviewed and approved the death sentence against Akmal Shaikh and there was no reason to cast doubt on Shaikh's mental state.

    According to the court, the British embassy in China and a British organization had proposed a psychiatric examination on Shaikh, but the documents they provided could not prove he had mental disorder nor did members of his family have history of mental illness. Shaikh himself had not provided materials regarding a mental illness. His legal rights and legitimate treatment had been fully granted in custody and trial, the statement said.

    Shaikh was sentenced to death in the first instance by the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi on Oct. 29, 2008, and his final verdict came in October this year after two failed appeals. Drug-related crimes had been recognized as serious criminal offences in most countries of the world, and China demanded severe punishment for such crimes, the statement said.

(China Daily)  British drug smuggler executed in China.  December 29, 2009.

Akmal Shaikh, a British national who was convicted of smuggling drugs into China, was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday in Urumqi after approval from China's Supreme People's Court (SPC). The SPC said Tuesday that it had reviewed and approved the death sentence against Akmal Shaikh.

Shaikh, 53, male, was caught carrying up to 4,030 grams of heroin at the international airport of Urumqi in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous from Dushanbe, capital of Tajikstan, on the morning of September 12, 2007. Shaikh was sentenced to death in the first instance by the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi on October 29, 2008 and his final verdict came in October after two failed appeals.

The SPC said in a statement that Shaikh had broken China's Criminal Law by smuggling huge amounts of heroin, and "the evidence was certain and the facts were clear." His behavior constituted the crime of drug smuggling and the crime committed was extremely serious, the SPC said.

It said the sentence handed down by the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi in accordance with Article 48 and 347 of China's Criminal Law was appropriate. China's Criminal Law stipulates that people trafficking more than 50 grams of heroin are punishable by death.

Crimes concerning drugs had been universally recognized as serious criminal offences and had a severe negative social impact, said the SPC statement, adding the general public, in China and other countries, demanded severe punishment for such crimes. China's Criminal Law stipulates that everyone was equal before the law and no one was permitted to transgress the law. Criminals should all be punished according to law regardless of their nationality, SPC said.

Although China retained death penalty, it had exercised strict control over capital punishment, said the statement. The application of death penalty for drug smugglers who caused serious social consequences would serve to deter criminals and prevent drug-related crimes, it said. The SPC also said that the defendant's litigation rights and legitimate treatment had been fully granted in custody and trial.

Officials from the British embassy in China and a British organization had proposed a mental disease examination on Akmal Shaikh, but the documents they provided could not prove he had mental disorder nor did members of his family have history of mental disease, the SPC said.

Akmal Shaikh himself did not provide relevant materials regarding him having a mental disease, according to the SPC. "There is no reason to cast doubt on Akmal Shaikh's mental status," the SPC said.

(Telegraph Blogs)  The execution of Akmal Shaikh demonstrates what China really thinks about Britain.  December 29, 2009.

China¡¦s decision to press ahead with the execution of Akmal Shaikh shows just how little Beijing cares for maintaining cordial relations with Britain. Both Gordon Brown and David Miliband made it abundantly clear to the Chinese authorities that they were totally opposed to the execution of the mentally-ill former taxi driver. But the Chinese ignored their appeals and went ahead with the execution in the early hours of this morning. And rather than seeking to reassure Britain that the affair would not affect relations between the two countries, Chinese officials have issued a series of statements condemning Britain¡¦s unwarranted interference in their internal affairs.

And that just about sums up China¡¦s attitude not just to Britain, but to the Western alliance. China¡¦s fundamental approach to the West is that it is prepared to cooperate only when it is regarded as in Beijing¡¦s interests to do so. We saw this at the Copenhagen global warming summit, where the Chinese basically withdrew their cooperation when they realised the reduction in carbon emissions might damage their own economic growth.

The same applies to their attitude towards law and order. The Chinese government regards the death penalty as an essential tool to maintaining law and order in the world¡¦s most populous country, and no amount of condemnation from the West is going to change their minds.

(Telegraph)  Prostitute boycotts Chinese on ethical grounds.  By George Pitcher.  December 29, 2009.

One of the more touching messages I receive in the run-up to the outrageous execution of Akmal Shaikh in China this morning is from a London-based ¡§working girl¡¨, who tells me she is boycotting all Chinese clients for a year in protest.

Please, spare me any sanctimonious injunctions about her chosen way of life. She¡¦s doing what she can. And how many business people have decided today to withdraw their services from the Chinese? I think, in this context at least, she is acting with great dignity and self-respect.

She writes:

Dear Father Pitcher,

I read your article on Akmal Shaikh with interest. It says the Chinese will face serious consequences if the execution goes ahead.

I don¡¦t suppose you will find the following consequences serious, but I know some people who will..

[She then includes a link to her website]

That site is probably not worksafe if anyone is monitoring your internet usage, but it is my advert on [she includes an escort directory]. I am an escort. I¡¦m boycotting Chinese passport holders for a year if the execution goes ahead. I can pick and choose my clients and I don¡¦t need any from murderous regimes.

I¡¦m in two minds about those from Hong Kong, but will allow Taiwanese.

[She then signs with what I take to be a real name, followed by her working name. I include neither here because, at the time of writing, I don't have her permission.]

I love that equivocation over Hong Kong. On her website, not yet updated after Mr Shaikh¡¦s execution,  she adds:

Incidentally, if you are the holder of a Chinese passport you had better get your booking in tonight. After Akmal Shaikh, the mentally ill man, is executed tomorrow ¡V you are on short rations for a year! In fact, no rations at all. Diu lai no mo hai, far as I¡¦m concerned.

Could someone translate that Chinese for me? I reply to her as follows:

Dear [.....],

Good for you! I think that¡¦s a highly principled stand ¡V and I think that if everyone similarly did what they could by way of trade sanctions then we might make some progress with the Chinese.

Thanks for writing and have a very happy New Year.

And I mean it. The whole exchange is strangely uplifting and I¡¦m really glad she wrote to me. Bless you, [consider your name here], GP

(Guardian)  China has made a mockery of justice.  Clive Stafford Smith.  December 29, 2009.

In the wake of Akmal Shaikh's horrific execution, it is perhaps worth discussing the position taken by the Chinese in more depth. Cast aside for one moment the unassailable case that we made for his mental illness, and assume that Shaikh was truly guilty, and that the Chinese courts delivered something other than the mockery of justice that we encountered.

How would we then assess their claim ¡V made officially through the Chinese embassy on Christmas Eve ¡V that executing Shaikh was necessary because "150mg of heroin of high degree of purity would be lethal. The amount of heroin he carried was 4,030g, enough to cause 26,800 deaths." Is this a sensible approach to the societal scourge of drug abuse, or is it a faintly ridiculous statement that undermines China's claim to have a rational drugs policy?

The latest available figures suggest that there were 632.3 metric tonnes of heroin produced worldwide in 2004. This is no doubt a low estimate. As of 2009, heroin production is still going up according to the UN, and will not fall until demand is reduced.

But let's accept the figure: 632.3 tonnes of the stuff could, under the Chinese arithmetic, cause 4.2bn deaths each year. This would be roughly 62% of the entire world population. Given that this is more than 240 times the total number of heroin users worldwide, it is clear that the Chinese are being hyperbolic, rather than sensible.

Such exaggeration in a matter of life or death speaks unfavourably of the "cautious approach" that the Chinese claim to be taking on capital punishment, along with their "careful reforms". If a hurried and inadequate investigation by Reprieve has exposed these kinds of flaws in Shaikh's case, what of the other people executed by China without the slightest hint of public scrutiny? China was responsible for at least 1,718 executions in 2008, more than four each day. How many of them had strong claims of innocence as well?

It is hardly surprising that the Chinese wish to keep their judicial system cloaked in secrecy. The Chinese Emperor lives on, it seems, and he still wears no clothes.

Instead of killing a mentally ill man like Shaikh, the Chinese might like to follow the advice of the UN, and focus on prevention. Sadly, if predictably, the Afghan war has dramatically increased heroin supplies. Whatever else one says about the Taliban, they are credited with reducing heroin production by 94%, but by 2006 the New York Times reported that heroin production had reached record levels. So much for the Afghan war being crucial to our government's goal of protecting people on the streets of London.

So the Chinese are not the only irrational ones, but they certainly established a new nadir last night. Until governments start adopting sensible policies, they are hardly likely to solve society's problems.

(Guardian blogs)  Why denouncing China is hypocritical.  Michael White.  December 29, 2009.

I'm sorry too that the Chinese have just executed Akmal Shaikh, an apparently mentally ill Briton. He was clearly an expendable drugs mule, cynically exploited by traffickers who are still alive and well today. But I'm also sorry about the international clamour to denounce China, which sounds at least as hypocritical and insensitive as the act itself. Can Gordon Brown and David Cameron ¡V to name but two ¡V hear what they sound like?

Let's start with the basics. Most of us (not all) deplore the drugs trade ¡V from cultivation to distribution and sale ¡V which is illegal in most countries (not all) and has spawned a huge and lucrative global industry.

Some think the "cure'' ¡V the worldwide campaign against the trade ¡V worse than the disease since it underpins major criminal enterprises on all continents. It has long been the case, though I would personally hesitate to risk legalising it and hoping for the best.

Different countries tackle the problem in different ways. China, which has a rising drugs problem as it enters the modern consumer era, is one of those which takes a tough line. As the Guardian's Q&A points out today it is one of the few crimes to attract a mandatory death sentence.

Enter poor Akmal Shaikh, who seems to have gone off the rails in middle age after leading a quiet family life as a north London taxi driver. Someone who struck acquaintances as very odd after he emigrated to Poland with grandiose ideas, he falls into bad company which exploits his gullibility.

So he ends up landing in Urumqi, northern China, in 2007 and being caught at the airport with 4kg of heroin in his luggage. He told police he knew nothing about it. It's a tragically familiar story and, in his case, it's probably true.

In the wake of his execution the Chinese authorities sound quite angry at criticism of their judicial system. Shaikh had a fair trial, complete with interpreter, they say. He was deemed fit to plead.

Mental illness? Ah, that's a tricky one. But it's easy to see how the Chinese might take a very different view of how it is defined. So do many jurisdictions ¡V as we all know ¡V on this and many other legal issues: "self defence", "crimes of passion", "third degree homicide", "honour killings", lots of scope for moral relativism in all of them.

Reprieve and other admirable campaigns which fight for the rights of prisoners in foreign jurisdictions have the virtue of consistency. Thus they oppose the death penalty wherever it exists, including the US, where it was abolished as a "cruel and unnatural punishment'' in 1972 ¡V and restored in 1976 when the supreme court changed its mind.

Though they are pretty half-hearted about it compared with China's 1,700 or so known executions (they are reported to sell body parts for medical use) a year, southern US states are keenest.

As governors both George W Bush and Bill Clinton ¡V whom so many of us admire ¡V signed off on questionable executions of vulnerable, marginalised people like Akmal Shaikh. A high proportion of the 3,000 or so Americans on Death Row ¡V few actually executed ¡V are black. Britain? We last executed a man called Peter Allen at Walton jail on 13 August 1964 for murder ¡V three years before the final abolition of the death penalty.

Not so long ago really (our last Etonian PM, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, was in No 10) and, as China's very smart UK ambassador has probably told Beijing, capital punishment still commands as much enthusiasm here 40 years later as it does in China, ie lots.

So there's a sovereignty issue. China ¡V like the US ¡V has the right to pass and implement its own laws and governments, governments-in-waiting in Cameron's case, should pause before getting too mouthy. Apparently 27 representations were made to China by Britain over the past two years ¡V mostly quietly, I assume, which is always the best way.

But the execution took place during the Christmas news lull: hence the sudden high profile. Thank goodness Ivan Lewis, the junior foreign office minister put up to talk about it today, said: "I'm not going to make idle threats" ¡V or we might be starting 2010 going to war with China.

Talking of which, the really toe-curling fact, of which neither Dr Gordon Brown with his PhD in history, nor David Cameron with his 1st in PPE should be ignorant, is Anglo-Chinese history.

When Europeans started forcing the reclusive China of the late Ming and Qing dynasty to open its doors to trade in the 16th and 17th century the visitors wanted more Chinese goods ¡V all that tea, silk and lovely porcelain ¡V than the Chinese wanted of ours.

Sounds familiar? What the Chinese would accept was silver, a better bet than the US dollars they now hold in such vast quantities. This was unsustainable and in the 19th century the British East India Company hit on the idea of importing Indian opium to China ¡V though it was banned by imperial Chinese law.

I hope you've spotted where I'm heading. If not here's Wiki's starter kit on the Opium Wars of 1839-42 and 1856-60 which culminated in the so-called "unequal treaties" and the eventual overthrow of the Qing in 1912.

Result: China was forced to accept the trade with devastating social consequences. In fairness I should add that the stuff was legal in Britain at the time ¡V as readers of Victorian novels can confirm. The Chinese governor Lin Zexu became a hero for opposing the trade ¡V as did young William Gladstone at Westminster.

All the same, it is a pretty shameful story. Perhaps it slipped your memory? It certainly hasn't slipped theirs and is still unravelling: they only got Hong Kong back in 1997 and have never rebuilt the burned Summer Palace at Beijing ¡V their Windsor.

So, one way or another, poor Akmal Shaikh was the wrong man in the wrong place. But China is likely to be impervious to lectures from Europeans on the morality of the drugs trade.

As the world's rising power it's unlikely to be lectured anyway, but that's another story ¡V one we'll rapidly have to get used to. No declaration of war this week, please Ivan.

(Guardian)  China's execution of Akmal Shaikh enrages British leaders.  By Jonathan Watts and Will Woodward.  December 29, 2009.

Gordon Brown and other senior British politicians have angrily condemned China for executing a British man said to have had mental problems. Akmal Shaikh, 53, was killed early this morning by lethal injection after being convicted of drug smuggling.

Despite frantic appeals by the Foreign Office for clemency, Shaikh was executed at 10.30am local time (2.30am British time) in Urumqi. Campaigners believe he is the first European in 58 years put to death in China.

Shaikh, a father of three from Kentish Town, north London, was found with 4kg of heroin in his suitcase in September 2007. His supporters say he had suffered a breakdown, was delusional and was tricked into carrying the drugs.

Britain is not planning any retaliation beyond criticism. The Chinese ambassador to London, Fu Ying, was summoned to the Foreign Office to hear first-hand the government's anger. The Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis was to protest about the execution and the Chinese government's related decision to cancel an annual meeting between the two countries, scheduled for January in Beijing, where they were due to discuss China's human rights record.

Lewis said: "China cannot expect to receive the respect they yearn from the international community until they abide by minimum standards of human rights. Engagement with China is non-negotiable and any alternative strategy is simply not credible. But by being so clear in our public criticism of China's handling of this case we are demonstrating that it is not business as usual."

British ministers have been struck by the apparent near-universal support for the execution within China. David Miliband, the foreign secretary, writing on his blog, said: "We have said many times we welcome the economic rise of China and believe its integration into the world system is one of the great opportunities of the 21st century, not just one of the challenges. Events like those of today will only fuel the argument of those who say this is an impossible dream and that the value systems are just too different.

"I don't believe that. But it is a reminder of how different can be our perspective. We need to understand China (and the massive public support for the execution). They need to understand us."

Shaikh learned only yesterday that he would be killed today. He was informed by two cousins who had flown to China seeking a reprieve.

"We are deeply saddened, stunned and disappointed at the news of the execution of our beloved cousin Akmal," said Soohail and Nasir Shaikh in a statement.

The two men said they were "astonished" that the Chinese authorities refused to investigate their cousin's mental health on the grounds that the defendant ought to have provided evidence of his own fragile state of mind.

"We find it ludicrous that any mentally ill person should be expected to provide this, especially when this was apparently bipolar disorder, in which we understand the sufferer has a distorted view of the world, including his own condition."

Amid an angry exchange of words between London and Beijing, the British prime minister said: "I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted. I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken. At this time our thoughts are with Mr Shaikh's family and friends and I send them our sincere condolences."

Brown had raised the case on several occasions, including during a meeting with the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, at the Copenhagen summit and in a personal message in the past few days.

While British ministers have been careful not to promise any retaliation against the Chinese government, their statements demonstrate their anger at what they regard as Beijing's refusal to recognise Shaikh's basic human rights.

In Beijing the Chinese government said it resisted any interference in its judicial affairs. "We express strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the British reaction," said Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman. "We hope the British side will face this case squarely and not put new obstacles in the way of relations between Britain and China."

Chinese judges and lawyers receive instructions from the Communist party on their handling of political cases, but Jiang claimed the country's courts were independent. "China judicial independence brooks no interference." China treated citizens of all nations as equals in dealing with drug-related crime, said Jiang.

The Chinese embassy in London insisted "Shaikh's rights and interests were properly respected and guaranteed" and disputed British claims about his condition. "The concerns of the British side were duly noted and taken into consideration by the Chinese judicial authorities.

"Out of humanitarian consideration visas were granted to the two cousins of Mr Shaikh on Boxing Day and they were given access to meeting Mr Shaikh in China. As for his possible mental illness which has been much talked about, there apparently has been no previous medical record."

China executes three times as many people as the rest of the world's official executions put together ¡V at least 1,718 in 2008 according to Amnesty International, although the real figure is likely to be much higher.

China has assured British officials that they have gone further than they do with other countries' prisoners to give advance warning of the execution, around three or four days, and allow the family access. Shaikh's cousins were allowed to see him for an hour and a half.

One senior figure closely involved with the case said China's reluctance to give ground was because many of those executed by the state were likely to have mental health problems and that Shaikh was "the tip of the iceberg".

Britain believes China is keen to move on from this case quickly but senior figures say it will inevitably colour dealings between the two countries for some time.

Sally Rowen, the legal director of the human rights group Reprieve, said: "The death of Akmal Shaikh is a sad indictment of today's world, and particularly of China's legal system. ... We at Reprieve are sickened by what we have seen during our work on this case."

Lewis told Radio 4's Today programme this morning: "It's a deeply depressing day for anyone with a modicum of compassion or commitment to justice in Britain and throughout the world."

He said it was "reprehensible" and "entirely unacceptable" that the execution had gone ahead without any medical assessment. "This execution makes me personally feel sick to the stomach but I'm not going to make idle threats.

"This morning is not the time for a kneejerk reaction. It's true we must continue to engage with China but it needs to be clear as that country plays a greater role in the world they have to understand their responsibility to adhere to the most basic standards of human rights. China will only be fully respected when and if they make the choice to join the human rights mainstream and incidents like this do not help the international community's respect or relationship with China."

Lewis said that there had been 27 ministerial representations to China about Shaikh's case in the last two years. Despite the increased international dialogue with China "all of those representations have been in vain and this is a very very different view of what constitutes universal human rights".

"Clearly Mr Shaikh has mental health problems. And whilst we differ with China anyway on the issue of the death penalty ... the biggest single issue here that causes us so much consternation is that they refused to even do a medical assessment knowing that there was evidence of mental health problems; that is what is unacceptable.

"In the context of a working relationship, a constructive positive relationship ... we expect our partners to behave differently and behave better."

Chinese media have yet to report the execution, but the state-run news agency Xinhua carried a statement by the supreme court defending its judgment. "The evidence was certain and the facts were clear," it said.

The court defended its decision to refuse UK requests for a mental examination. "There is no reason to cast doubt on Akmal Shaikh's mental status," it said.

Legal activists disputed the assertion that the government could not intervene in the court system. "China's judiciary is not independent, it is totally controlled by the government," said the civil rights lawyer Teng Biao.

"This case shows the hardline stance of the government. China now can ignore pressure from international society and won't compromise even a little on the issue of human rights."

Shaikh's lawyer for the supreme court review, Zhang Qingsong, said he was not allowed to meet his client.

Following vocal British criticism of China's stalling tactics at the Copenhagen climate conference this month, the rhetorical relations between the two nations have arguably hit a low not seen since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. But experts said the long-term impact would be small.

"The two sides are just posturing for their own citizens," said Wu Qiang of Tsinghua University. "Akmal Shaikh is only an isolated case. Unless the UK raises the issue to the EU level I don't think there will be big influence on relations."

The execution delighted China's nationalists. Online comment was overwhelmingingly favourable.

"Well done! The man deserves the death sentence. China has finally shown it can be tough in front of foreigners," noted a post under a TV clip about the news.

On the website, Chahu18 wrote: "I can't believe the British government condemned this action ... Do they support drug smuggling? Britons, you think it is still 1840 when you could use opium to harm Chinese people? I am with Chinese government this time!"

Reprieve said it had medical evidence that Shaikh believed he was going to China in 2007 to record a hit single that would usher in world peace. It said he was duped into carrying a suitcase packed with heroin on a flight from Tajikistan to Urumqi.

Reprieve said the last European to be executed in China was an Italian, Antonio Riva, who was shot by a firing squad in 1951, along with a Japanese man, Ruichi Yamaguchi, after being convicted of involvement in what China alleged was an American plot to assassinate Mao Zedong and other high-ranking Communist officials.

Shaikh's family thanked Brown, Miliband and other British ministers for their efforts and asked the media for "space to grieve".

(Telegraph)  China couldn't care less about Akmal Skaikh's 'bipolar disorder'. It's not keen on the mentally ill  By Tim Collard.  December 29, 2009.

So poor old Akmal Shaikh has been executed after all. One jab of a syringe, job done, that¡¦ll be five yuan for the chemicals, please. None of this twenty-years-on-death-row stuff for the Chinese. But, beyond the obvious horrors of the modern death penalty, what does this sad story tell us?

Firstly, the death penalty itself. China is apparently responsible for 72 per cent of the executions taking place in the world today. That, of course, only counts executions imposed by some sort of judicial process; it does not include all those people who are simply murdered by regimes and their thugs. Not that that doesn¡¦t happen in China too: but on the whole the Communist Party prefers to kill people out in the open, which one may or may not regard as preferable.

It is usually estimated that a referendum among the British people would show around 70 per cent support for the death penalty, at least for certain types of murder. In China I suspect that figure would be in the high nineties; there is no sympathy for the person who steps far outside the norms of society. Social and group ethics trump the individual every time; the sort of characters Camus or Dostoyevsky wrote about would strike no chord in the Middle Kingdom.

The fact that Mr Sheikh was a British citizen might have been expected to help him; it didn¡¦t. This may partly have been a demonstration that Britain has no leverage over China these days; and somewhere below the surface the idea of a Briton smuggling drugs into China may have wakened latent resentments deriving from the humiliation of the Opium Wars. More probably, I would guess, the idea of a man called Akmal Shaikh being British just did not compute in the Chinese official mind.

Lastly, we hoped that the clear evidence of Mr Shaikh¡¦s mental illness might have aided the case for clemency. His story ¡V that he had naively allowed himself to be used by unscrupulous traffickers ¡V certainly rings true to Western ears. But I never thought that this defence would fly in China, and it didn¡¦t. Sadly, the revelation of the severity of his mental problems made his execution more rather than less likely.

¡§What is the point of such a person?¡¨ the Chinese will have asked themselves. Provided that the mentally ill keep to themselves, are cared for and controlled by their families, and are not a burden on society, well and good; but if they get involved, however innocently, in things like drug smuggling, they¡¦re better out of the way. The Chinese would have no problem with the sort of eugenics implemented by the Nazis (and, to be fair, supported between the wars by many eminent and respected Western Europeans, including Churchill at one point). Just one more way in which East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.

(Times Online)  Chinese ambassador summoned over execution of Briton Akmal Shaikh   By Jane Macartney and Sophie Yu.  December 29, 2009.

China¡¦s Ambassador in London 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.

The execution was condemned by the Prime Minister and David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, with the Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis declaring that it made him feel ¡§sick to the stomach¡¨.

Mr Lewis met Ambassador Fu Ying to express the Government¡¦s ¡§deep regret¡¨ that Beijing refused to examine appeals for clemency. ¡§I had a difficult conversation with the Chinese ambassador today,¡¨ he said. ¡§I made clear 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 mental condition."

Mr Shaikh¡¦s family said that they were ¡§deeply saddened, stunned and disappointed¡¨ by the execution. Mental health campaigners deplored his killing, with one charity describing it as ¡§medieval rough justice¡¨.

The criticism sparked irritation in China, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu telling a press briefing in Beijing: ¡§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.¡¨

The Chinese Embassy in London issued a statement insisting that Shaikh had ¡§no previous medical record¡¨ of mental illness and that his rights and interests had been properly respected.

Mr Shaikh, 53, a former taxi service manager from Kentish Town, North London, was arrested in Urumqi in northwest China in September 2007 and was convicted of smuggling 4kg (9lb) of heroin into the country.

The execution of Mr Shaikh was the first in China of a citizen of a European nation for half a century, according to Reprieve, a British prisoners' rights charity.

Mr Shaikh was executed at 10.30am today (0230 GMT), the British Government announced.

The family Mr Shaikh, a father of three, issued a statement in London saying: ¡§The family express their grief at the Chinese decision to refuse mercy.¡¨

After news of the execution came through his two cousins, who had visited him in prison, added: "We are deeply saddened, stunned and disappointed at the news of the execution of our beloved cousin, Akmal. This was carried out this morning despite repeated requests for clemency and a proper appraisal of Akmal¡¦s mental state. We are astonished at suggestions that Akmal himself should have provided evidence of his own fragile state of mind. We find it ludicrous that any mentally ill person should be expected to provide this, especially when this was apparently bipolar disorder, in which we understand the sufferer has a distorted view of the world, including his own condition. That this was regarded as sufficient grounds for refusal by the judicial authorities to order any mental health assessment is shocking to us. Despite our own and other pleas, the Chinese authorities have maintained their refusal to investigate Akmal¡¦s mental health."

Chinese practice is to hand over the body of a prisoner to the family as soon as possible for cremation or burial. Mr Shaikh was expected to be buried before sundown in a Muslim cemetery in Urumqi in accordance with Muslim practice.

Mr Shaikh was arrested in 2007 when he arrived in Urumqi from Tajikistan in possession of heroin. He was convicted after a half-hour trial last year and his final appeal was rejected last week by the Supreme Court.

Family, supporters and the Government all appealed for clemency on the grounds he was mentally imbalanced. Mr Shaikh believed he was travelling to China to record a hit single that would be a singing sensation and usher in world peace. He had been living homeless in Poland when he was approached by two men who duped him into taking the drugs into China, supporters said.

Mr Brown at once criticised China for going ahead with the execution. "I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms, and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted," he said. He added: "I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken."

The Supreme Court said that the death sentence was the correct judgment in the case and evidence of mental illness was insufficient. Justifying its decision, the Supreme Court said in a statement: "To use the death penalty for extremely threatening and serious crimes involving drugs is beneficial to instilling fear and preventing drug crimes." It said no documents provided by the British Embassy or by other organisations as well as by Mr Shaikh himself could prove that he had a mental disorder. "There is no reason to cast doubt on Akmal Shaikh¡¦s mental status.¡¨

Sally Rowen, legal director of Reprieve's death penalty team, said: "The death of Akmal Shaikh is a sad indictment of today's world, and particularly of China's legal system. "Akmal was a gentle man who suffered from a tormenting illness. He slipped through the cracks of society and was betrayed and deliberately killed by one of the most powerful nations on earth. We at Reprieve are sickened by what we have seen during our work on this case."

The last European citizen known to have been executed in China was an Italian pilot shot by firing squad in 1951.

(Times Online)  Chinese show little sympathy for Akmal Shaikh   By Jane Macartney.  December 30, 2009.

Few Chinese were even aware of the execution of Akmal Shaikh yesterday. Reports of executions are commonplace, particularly in recent months after bloody anti-Chinese riots in the far west and a high-profile gang trial in a sprawling central metropolis. But news of foreigners being put to death is less common.

The few who have been executed have usually been found guilty of drug trafficking ¡X as was the case with Shaikh ¡X and this is a crime that elicits scant sympathy.

Some debate emerged on the internet, the only free medium for discussion in China, with most comments questioning why a convicted drug smuggler should receive mercy just because he was foreign.

Some referred to the 19th-century opium wars, when British gunboats forced open several Chinese ports to enable merchants to flood the Chinese market with opium from India. Those events more than a century ago still evoke bitter memories among Chinese.

One comment read: ¡§The UK should respect Chinese law and it is not China that should respect these appeals.¡¨

Another referred to the last dynasty that ruled China, at the time of the opium wars. ¡§China is not Qing any more; we decide what to do on our land.¡¨

Another wrote: ¡§Britain is looking for excuses. They should have said those who sold opium to China were all mentally imbalanced.¡¨ But such comments were few and the death of Shaikh will pass with barely a murmur in China.

The type of case that usually provokes debate and public outrage is where an ordinary worker is pitted against the State. There was the manicurist who stabbed to death a local Communist Party official when he tried to rape her. Such was the public anger that the girl was soon released and sent home on the ground of diminished responsibility. A young man in Shanghai got into a row with police and stabbed six officers to death after he was taken to a local police station. His arrest stirred a storm of debate, with many people saying that the police all too often took advantage of their almost unrestrained powers to oppress the weak. He was executed.

A few weeks ago a woman set herself on fire in protest when local officials tried to demolish her home because it had not been legally constructed. The public outcry was such that the Government is now considering changing the law to reduce the powers of officials to enforce such demolitions.

(The Independent)  Insults fly as UK hits out at China execution.  By Clifford Coonan.  December 30, 2009.

Beijing hit back furiously yesterday at Britain's condemnation of the execution of a mentally ill Londoner who relatives say was duped into smuggling heroin into China.

After 27 separate appeals and days of conciliatory words aimed at persuading China of Akmal Shaikh's case, Gordon Brown yesterday changed gear to strongly criticise the execution.

When it emerged that last-minute entreaties at a tense Foreign Office meeting with the Chinese ambassador had failed to stop Mr Shaikh's death by lethal injection yesterday morning, Mr Brown said he was "appalled and disappointed" at China's conduct, and particularly at the failure to allow a medical assessment of the Briton.

But a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman later slammed Britain for meddling in Beijing's affairs, and insisted that normal legal procedures had been followed. "Nobody has the right to speak ill of China's judicial sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said. "We express our strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition over the groundless British accusations."

The Chinese ambassador, Fu Ying, was summoned to the Foreign Office yesterday for a dressing-down over the execution. Afterwards, Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis, who admitted that the meeting had been "difficult", said he had told her: "China has failed in its basic human rights responsibilities." He had made a final attempt to change Beijing's stance at a tense meeting with Ms Fu on Monday night.

The British government realised that attempts to persuade China to show mercy were doomed two days before Mr Shaikh's death. As London stepped up the diplomatic pressure, ministers sensed that Chinese officials were becoming increasingly hostile to their pleas for clemency.

Mr Brown repeatedly raised the case with China's Premier Wen Jiabao, once during the Copenhagen summit on climate change earlier this month. He also wrote several times to President Hu Jintao, most recently at the beginning of this week.

The decision to brush off calls for clemency is the latest sign of China flexing its diplomatic and political muscle, after the jailing of top dissident Liu Xiaobo on Christmas Day and a tough line on negotiations at the Copenhagen talks, where critics including British Climate Secretary Ed Miliband roused Beijing's anger by accusing China of blocking a deal on CO2 emissions.

Yesterday Mr Lewis said he felt "sick to the stomach" about Mr Shaikh's death and added, "It is a deeply distressing day for anyone with a modicum of compassion or commitment to justice, in Britain and throughout the world."

The episode has cast a pall over UK-China relations, which London believed had been improving in recent years.

Last night British sources told The Independent that China was a "hugely significant country with which we have to continue to engage". He pointed to shared interests in tackling climate change, preventing nuclear proliferation and building closer economic links.

But the sources admitted human rights issues "affected the environment within which we are operating with the Chinese". If the bitter diplomatic row continues, it could also cause further resentment against the West in China. Extreme nationalists have latched onto the case as a demonstration that China is becoming a strong international player. One commentator described the execution as "a slap in the face for those arrogant Europeans".

But Mr Shaikh's family expressed their horror at the execution of the man who they said had entered China with delusional hopes of becoming a pop star. Relatives, including his brother, Akbar, held a candle-lit vigil outside the Chinese embassy in London. Cousins Soohail and Nasir Shaikh, who had made a last-minute visit to China to appeal for clemency, said they were "deeply saddened, stunned and disappointed" by the execution. "We are astonished at suggestions Akmal himself should have provided evidence of his own fragile state of mind," they added. "We find it ludicrous that any mentally ill person should be expected to provide this."

The rights group Reprieve, which had tried to stop Mr Shaikh's execution, said his death was "a sad indictment of today's world, and particularly of China's legal system".

(Telegraph)  Britain is fighting the wrong battle with China.  December 29, 2009.

In the world of diplomacy, it is generally a good idea to take great care when picking a quarrel with a rival power, particularly one as dominant as China. There are many issues that Britain could choose to dispute with China, from its unconvincing commitment to tackle global warming to its steadfast refusal to address its massive trade deficit with the West. However, Gordon Brown's decision to denounce China over the execution of a convicted British drug smuggler has sparked a diplomatic row that the British Government has no chance of winning.

By publicly stating that he was "appalled" by Beijing's decision to proceed with the execution of Akmal Shaikh, a Pakistani-born taxi driver from north London who was caught smuggling 4 kilos of heroin into China, Mr Brown risks pandering to the sensitivities of human rights activists rather than adopting a position that demonstrably promotes our national interests, as opposed to our liberal values. Others have been even more forthright: Ivan Lewis, the Foreign Office Minister, declared that the execution had made him "sick to the stomach", and that Beijing's action was "reprehensible" and "entirely unacceptable". No doubt the Government's condemnation of the Chinese authorities reflects concern that Mr Shaikh's apparent poor mental health was not properly accounted for in the judicial process; it is also true that many aspects of Chinese life and culture continue to offend western progressive sensibilities.

Nevertheless, in summoning Fu Ying, China's ambassador to London, to the Foreign Office, the Government has unnecessarily gone out on a limb ¡V which will no doubt have come as a surprise to Beijing, since the Prime Minister has previously avoided raising difficult human rights issues with his Chinese counterparts; he even declined to meet the Dalai Lama at Downing Street in order not to antagonise China over the thorny matter of its occupation of Tibet.

Given that China's uncompromising approach to drug smuggling is well known, the Government should have confined its involvement in the Shaikh case simply to making representations that clemency might be granted. Anyone ill-advised enough to attempt to smuggle drugs into a country where the offence is punishable by death must be ready to face the consequences. Yet, rather than taking a more tactfully persuasive approach, Mr Brown has risked turning this affair into a major diplomatic incident that threatens to cause serious damage to our relations with China, a development that does not bode well for our long-term interests in the region.

(Telegraph)  China stands firm by its principles despite a British outcry    By Malcolm Moore.  December 29, 2009

From the Chinese point of view, the case was straightforward. If Mr Shaikh had been caught with 50g of heroin, he would have merited the death penalty. With four kilograms of the drug in his bag, his fate was sealed.

The official view reflects this straightforward logic. "As for his possible mental illness which has been much talked about, there apparently has been no previous medical record," the Chinese embassy in London said. But article 18 of the 1997 Chinese Criminal Code states that a mental patient who is "unable to recognise or control his own misconduct does not bear criminal responsibility".

Chinese courts have been lenient on mentally-ill foreigners in the past, notably granting one paranoid-schizophrenic American man a reduced sentence for murdering his Chinese wife. However, the court is not obliged to carry out a mental evaluation and the size of the drugs haul in this case would have put pressure on the judges not to look too hard for mitigating circumstances.

Even 170 years after the first Opium War, when Britain used its gunboats to ensure widespread addiction to opium in China, the Chinese remain incredibly sensitive to drug offences. "China has the bitter memory of drug problems, and is still facing severe situations which undermine the social stability," said the embassy, before calculating that Mr Shaikh's luggage contained enough heroin to "kill 26,800 people".

On the internet, there was overwhelming support for Mr Shaikh's execution and dismay at Britain's attempt at interference. For the Chinese, the case was simply a matter of applying the law while in the UK, Mr Shaikh's case became a test of diplomacy. "In the last six months the UK has raised the case on ten occasions both at Prime Ministerial and Ministerial level," said a spokesman for the Embassy in Beijing. Gordon Brown discussed the case with Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, at Pittsburgh and then again with Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, in Copenhagen. Ivan Lewis, a Foreign office minister, said that officials had discussed Mr Shaikh with the Chinese on 27 occasions since he was first arrested in 2007.

But in a demonstration of Britain's waning influence on the global stage, China not only ignored the attempt to plead for clemency but rebuked the government for interference. China's "strong dissatisfaction" over British criticism mirrors the increasing confidence and nationalism within the country. In this case, as in others, China knows it cannot be pushed around.

(Guardian)  Akmal Shaikh's final hours.  By Jonathan Watts.  December 29, 2009.

Correctly applied, the lethal concoction injected into the veins of Akmal Shaikh, the convicted drug smuggler from Kentish Town, north London, would have taken less than a minute to stop his heart and seal his unfortunate place as the first European to be executed in China in more than half a century.

A video was recorded of the killing, but there were no family members or UK consular officials present to witness his final hours because they were refused permission by the Chinese authorities.

The only official confirmation of Shaikh's death was a brief fax from the press office in Urumqi, where the execution was carried out, and a story in the state-run Xinhua news agency that reported he was killed by lethal injection.

Yet it is possible to sketch a partial picture of what happened in his final 24 hours based on records of previous executions in China and reports from family members, lawyers and human rights organisations.

Shaikh had been incarcerated in Urumqi, the centre of the heroin trade in China owing to its proximity to Afghanistan and Pakistan, since September 2007, when he was caught at the local airport with 4kg of heroin in his suitcase, which he brought from Kyrgyzstan via Tajikistan. His family and supporters say he suffered from a bipolar disorder that diminished his criminal responsibility, but it has never been recognised by the authorities and the courts denied requests for a mental examination.

A day before his execution, Shaikh was in a high security hospital, though not ¡V according to the authorities ¡V because of his state of mind. He had been moved out of the detention centre in August, ostensibly to treat his high blood pressure.

That may have been a concession to the requests for clemency from Gordon Brown and other UK ministers. The hospital would be more comfortable than the death row experience of most of the 1,700 to 10,000 people executed each year in China. The exact number is unknown. Even by the most conservative estimates, China accounts for seven out of every 10 executions in the world.

On Monday morning, Shaikh was unaware he had less than 24 hours to live, though he had been present at three previous trials and appeals in which his death sentence was handed down.

The news was broken to him by two of his cousins ¡V Soohail and Nasir Shaikh ¡V who had flown to Urumqi to make a last-gasp appeal for a reprieve. They were allowed to visit with two UK consular officials. It was to be the Shaikh's last chance to spend time with his family.

The two cousins, who emerged from the hospital carrying their relative's belongings in a plastic bag, said Shaikh appeared to have lost weight and his mental condition had deteriorated from when he was in England running a minicab firm.

"It was apparent to us that he was suffering from a mental illness. The things he was saying were not the things you'd expect a normal person facing the death sentence to say," they said. "He was a little tearful at the end. He said he appreciated us being there. We had to be strong for him. We said we had not given up hope."

Far from Urumqi, supporters held a vigil outside the Chinese embassy in London, and more than 1,000 signed up to a Facebook campaign to stop the execution.

By the evening, Shaikh had been moved from the hospital to the grimly utilitarian Urumqi Public Security Bureau detention centre. Even if he was not in solitary detention, there may have been nobody who spoke English. Even at his trials, the courts failed to provide interpretation.

When the lights were turned out soon after 10pm, darkness fell on a bitterly cold, snowy night in Urumqi.

Although each province has different customs, he is likely to have been woken ¡V if he was able to sleep, of course ¡V at 6.30am and given an hour and a quarter to wash, brush his teeth, tidy his belongings and eat a breakfast of gruel or buns.

If the execution followed the pattern of other reported cases, the chief prosecutor would have arrived soon after, with an escort of paramilitary guards and a notification of imminent execution.

Guards would have unlocked his handcuffs and manacles to allow him to change into a fresh tunic before being led out to the execution area. He may have been allowed to take a photograph of his three children along with him.

In the past, China took prisoners condemned to death into a field or yard, forced them to kneel and then shot them once at short range with a rifle in the back of the head, often in front of a crowd of spectators. In recent years, however, China has made increasing use of lethal injection, which is considered more humane and discreet. The supreme court supplies the same lethal cocktail used in the US: sodium thiopental to induce loss of consciousness, pancuronium bromide to halt breathing and potassium chloride to still the heart.

Before 10am, he would have been led to an execution chamber or mobile "death van". Four straps would hold his body in place on a horizontal gurney. Sensors would have been attached to his head and chest along with other clasps to keep both arms outstretched. On one side, the sleeve would be rolled up and a syringe inserted and connected to an electric pump. He would see little to distract his mind.

Legs tied together and arms outstretched, he would probably have heard unintelligible voices in Chinese and perhaps the beeps and mechanical clicks of the cardiograms and brain scanning equipment before they flat-lined between 30 seconds and a minute after the drugs entered his bloodstream.

And then, if the authorities were as good as their word, his body would have been buried within hours ¡V according to his wishes and Muslim traditions ¡V in white robes or sheets.

However, like almost every other aspect of China's murky death penalty system, this was hard to confirm and, despite the massive public outcry, Shaikh's burial was as veiled in secrecy as his death.

(Times Online)  Before preaching, remember the opium wars.  By George Walden.  December 30, 2009.

Collecting calligraphy in China during the Cultural Revolution, I found some by Commissioner Lin Zexu, governor of Canton in the early 19th century when Britain and others were booting the country about.

A cultivated man with a bold and vigorous script, he remains a hero to the Chinese to this day, one of the few incorruptible civil servants in a period when his country was in a state of political dissolution and moral meltdown, not least through the soaring consumption of opium.

After tipping our opium stocks in Canton into the Pearl River (that we pushed drugs in China partly to pay for imports of their tea gives this a nice Bostonian touch) the commissioner went straight to the source of the problem.

A letter he sent to Queen Victoria read: ¡§It is said that the smoking of opium is forbidden in your country, the proof that you are clearly aware of its harm. Since you do not permit opium to harm your own country you should not allow it to be passed on to other countries, certainly not to the Central States [China].

¡§Of all the products that the Central States exports ... there is not a single item that is not beneficial to the people ... Has any article from the Central States done any harm to foreign countries?¡¨

Certainly not the tea, silk and porcelain that Her Majesty consumed in some quantities. Such a pity our moralising Queen does not appear to have seen the letter.

It wasn¡¦t just the lower classes that Lin was worried about: opium helped to stupefy the minds and to dissipate the energies of an already decadent elite, weakening China further in the face of the foreign challenge. So the merciless treatment of Akmal Shaikh, the British citizen executed yesterday for smuggling 4kg of heroin, is rather more than another instance of China¡¦s lack of delicate feeling towards criminals, home- grown or foreign.

Few in China have forgotten the past. A statement issued by the Chinese Embassy yesterday said that the ¡§strong resentment¡¨ felt by the Chinese public against drug traffickers was the product of ¡§the bitter memory of history¡¨. Paranoid as it seems, many a Chinese official still believes that, after ransacking the country in the imperialist age, the West today will stoop to anything to impede it from finally taking its rightful place as a ¡X or, as they hope, the ¡X global power.

Nonetheless, my hunch is that Shaikh might have been reprieved if we had kept the pressure intense but out of sight. Democracies don¡¦t work that way, however, so China found itself on the spot over a subject where historical memories could hardly be more poisoned, or more vivid.

What should we do now? For the people who seriously suggested that we station a nuclear submarine off Hong Kong to keep British the colony that we acquired through the Opium Wars, there¡¦s no problem. When it comes to post-imperialist posturing our latter-day Palmerstons have a thing about China and the Chinese, just as the Victorians did:

John Chinaman a rogue is born The laws of truth he holds in scorn About as great a brute as can Encumber the Earth is John Chinaman.

So wrote Punch at about the time we were foisting drugs on the Chinese brutes, and sending gunboats if they resisted.

What we should do is make our disgust known vigorously, bilaterally and in international forums, while keeping our part in China¡¦s history in mind, on the assumption that we want to understand a power that already touches all our lives, and will affect them more. We should also keep a keen eye on China¡¦s overall direction ¡X of which the fate of a heroin mule is not necessarily a symbol.

¡§Of course we want to build socialist democracy,¡¨ the regime¡¦s spiritual guru, Deng Xiaoping, said during the Tiananmen uprising. ¡§But we can¡¦t possibly do it in a hurry, and still less do we want that Western-style stuff.¡¨

Since then, human rights in China have improved vastly from a low base. In recent years the gruesome toll of executions has diminished: each sentence must be confirmed by the Supreme Court and lethal injections are replacing firing squads (a sign of sensitivity to international opinion, believe it or not).

Although it is hard to verify the truth, the execution of what sounds like a mentally distressed person is another reminder that China can be a harsh society, in the throes of evolution. But ¡§nothing can be done in a hurry¡¨, and an economic hurricane has slowed reform. A subterranean struggle is permanently under way about the perils of liberalisation, which expose the young to ¡§that Western-style stuff¡¨ ¡X pornography, drugs and Aids.

The struggle seems to have sharpened, so we get the vicious 11-year sentence passed on Liu Xiaobo, a particularly impressive dissident, last week and the execution of Shaikh. Some will say that this signals a general onslaught on human rights, but I doubt it.

You cannot give the leeway that the Chinese have to the free exchange of goods and services without a freer exchange of ideas and information. Unless the Chinese want to close their doors and their markets, they are stuck with it. Witness the number of visitors to China, the huge growth of Chinese tourism abroad, and that there are now more internet users in China than anywhere else. Of course there is censorship, and an element of ¡§two steps forward and one step back¡¨, but this does not preclude more steps forward.

The issue for us is not so much if a British citizen deserves to be executed for his part in heroin smuggling: sovereign states have that right, and China is not alone in claiming it. It is that if we wish to influence China on capital punishment, the treatment of mentally unstable people or anything else, a little historical humility may be in order.

Not that modern generations should flagellate themselves for the misdemeanours of their forebears every time a post-colonial country behaves brutally, but while we fulminate against China, we could spare a little moral opprobrium for the people who ruin young Chinese lives by running drugs.

Commissioner Lin¡¦s magnificent admonition received no reply from the British. At the time we could afford to ignore China¡¦s complaints. The Chinese have now given their reply to us. As well as condemning the execution, we should think about why they did it, and how we can best persuade them from doing it again.

(The Independent)  Leading article: What this execution doesn't say about China and Britain.  December 30, 2009.

There was a dreadful inevitability about the execution of Akmal Shaikh in China, for all the 11th-hour visit by his cousins and last-minute intercessions by the British Government. But that inevitability does not detract from the abhorrence that we and many in Britain will feel about the application of the death penalty ¡V either in general or in this case in particular. From what has become public, Shaikh appears to have been mentally unstable; an individual worthy of sympathy rather than the ultimate punishment, whose pleas in mitigation might have succeeded in many countries.

Any hope of clemency, though, was always going to be faint in China, where more than 1,700 were executed last year alone. China has a rougher justice than we do. That Shaikh was apprehended in Urumqi, in the troubled western region of Xinjiang, cannot have helped matters. Nor is China alone in Asia in imposing the death penalty for drug-smuggling, which is regarded there as one of the most heinous crimes.

For all these reasons 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. In executing the first citizen of a European country for half a century, China surely understood the various messages that would send.

Summarised, these would be, first, that China, as a sovereign country, has the right to set its own laws and punishments. Second, that China will not look more kindly on foreigners who break the law than on its own citizens. And thirdly, Shaikh's fate will serve as a graphic reminder to visitors of what awaits them if ¡V even perhaps inadvertently ¡V they violate Chinese law.

From outside the country we are entitled to denounce the principle of capital punishment, as we do with those American states, chief among them Texas, that keep the death penalty on their books, and apply it. We are also within our rights to condemn China for its easy resort to execution. It cannot be that there are no miscarriages of justice; that no innocent people lose their lives.

But there are two conclusions that cannot, and should not, be drawn from Akmal Shaikh's case. The first is that China can be pressured into changing its policies to suit us. We have no better chance of persuading the Beijing authorities to abandon capital punishment than of persuading Texas or another US state to do the same. We can lobby when our own citizens are caught in the system, but we cannot demand that another jurisdiction bring its laws into line with ours. It is hypocritical to belabour China for its use of the death penalty while seeming to turn a blind eye to its use elsewhere.

The second false conclusion would be to treat Shaikh's execution as evidence of China's growing arrogance. To be sure, British ministers might have been in a stronger diplomatic position to plead for his life had they not so recently blamed China for blocking agreement at the Copenhagen climate summit. But there is nothing demeaning about making ¡V even failed ¡V representations on behalf of a citizen facing death abroad. Equally, no one should be surprised by Beijing's response. China guards its sovereignty jealously, not least because it was violated so relatively recently. This was less the arrogance of a rising power than evidence that China is still feeling its way in the wider world.

(Daily Mail)  Gordon Brown leads furious outcry as China executes British drugs mule by lethal injection.  By Peter Simpson and David Williams.  December 30, 2009.

An ¡¥appalled and disappointed¡¦ Gordon Brown led condemnation of the Chinese execution of British drug smuggler Akmal Shaikh.

The Chinese authorities killed the 53-year-old father of five by lethal injection early yesterday, ignoring last minute pleas from his family and the British Government.

There was cross-party anger at the execution of Mr Shaikh, who had mental problems.

Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis declared that it made him feel ¡¥sick to the stomach¡¦, while Conservative leader David Cameron said: ¡¥I deplore and deeply regret the fact that the Chinese authorities did not heed the pleas for clemency.¡¦

In a statement, Mr Brown said: ¡¥I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms, and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted. I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken.¡¦

Mr Shaikh, from Kentish Town, North London, was arrested in Urumqi, North-West China, in September 2007, and convicted of smuggling 4kg (8lb 13oz) of heroin into the country.

His family say he suffered from bipolar disorder. They claim he had been delusional and was duped into carrying a suitcase that did not belong to him into China. His daughter has said that drug smugglers in Poland convinced him they would make him a pop star in China. Mr Shaikh, who used to manage a cab firm in Kentish Town, had denied any wrongdoing. His family said they were ¡¥deeply saddened, stunned and disappointed¡¦ by the execution, which was carried out in Urumqi.

Mr Shaikh was the first EU national to be executed in China since 1951. The row culminated last night in a ¡¥difficult¡¦ meeting between Mr Lewis and China¡¦s ambassador, Fu Ying. She was summoned to the Foreign Office to explain her country¡¦s action after the Chinese Embassy in London issued a statement insisting Mr Shaikh¡¦s rights and interests had been ¡¥properly respected¡¦.

Emerging from the meeting, Mr Lewis said: ¡¥I made clear 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 mental condition.¡¦

Mr Lewis, who made a last ditch appeal for clemency on Monday night, said 27 representations had been made at ministerial level on Mr Shaikh¡¦s behalf to the Chinese authorities. He said: ¡¥It is a deeply distressing day for anyone with a modicum of compassion or commitment to justice in Britain and throughout the world. It is true he was found guilty of a serious crime, but it is equally clear that he had serious mental health problems and the unwillingness of the Chinese courts to take account of this and request a proper medical assessment is reprehensible.¡¦ Mr Lewis said Britain has an ¡¥important relationship¡¦ with China. But he added: ¡¥China needs to understand it will only ever achieve full respect around the world when it subscribes to basic standards of human rights.¡¦

Clearly angered by the stinging criticisms, however, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Jiang Yu hit back: ¡¥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.¡¦

The Chinese Embassy in London said: ¡¥The amount of heroin he [Mr Shaikh] brought into China was enough to cause 26,800 deaths, threatening numerous families.¡¦ It also insisted that Mr Shaikh had ¡¥no previous medical record¡¦ of mental illness.

The Chinese insist the use of the death penalty in their war on drugs is working and that drug use is falling as a result. Last year alone more than 200 people involved in the drug trade were executed.

Mr Shaikh¡¦s cousins, brothers Suhail and Nasir Shaikh, had travelled to China to see him in prison and to make a final plea for his life.

In a statement, they said : ¡¥We are astonished at suggestions that Akmal himself should have provided evidence of his own fragile state of mind. We find it ludicrous that any mentally ill person should be expected to provide this, especially when this was apparently bipolar disorder, in which we understand the sufferer has a distorted view of the world, including his own condition.¡¦

Reprieve's legal director Sally Rowen had described Mr Shaikh as a 'gentle man who suffering from a tormenting illness. 'He fell through the cracks... as many people with mental illness do,' she added. Mr Shaikh's case attracted support from mental health campaigners as well as those opposed to the death penalty. 'At this time our thoughts are with Mr Shaikh's family and friends and I send them our sincere condolences.'

Robert Westhead, spokesman for MDF, the Bipolar Organisation, described the execution as 'medieval rough justice' and an 'absolute tragedy'. 'How a society treats people affected by mental illness is always a good indicator of how civilised it is. The way the Chinese authorities have stubbornly failed to take account of this poor man's severe mental illness shows that China is still stuck in the dark ages. This execution is medieval rough justice gone badly wrong.'

Mr Shaikh's cousins visited him in jail for the last time yesterday. Speaking exclusively to the Mail, Suhail said: ¡¥Akmal had lost some weight but he was in high spirits when we first met him because he still believed he could appeal one more time and have his sentence overturned and be saved. He did not know a date had been set for his execution, and he said he was still waiting for an imminent change of heart from the Chinese who would overturn his death sentence and pardon him. We had to break the news to him and tell him that he was to be executed within 24 hours. He did not seem to believe us but we told him the final decision had been passed, and that we had done all we could as a tight-knit, heartbroken family to save him. It was apparent to us that he was suffering from a mental illness. The things he was saying were not the things you¡¦d expect a normal person facing the death sentence to say. He was a little tearful at the end. He said he appreciated us being there. We had to be strong for him. We said we had not given up hope.¡¦  The brothers looked solemn as they emerged from the prison hospital into falling snow. They were carrying Mr Shaikh's personal effects in a plastic bag.

As night fell in London, supporters held a candlelit vigil outside the Chinese embassy.

Tom Scott, a freelance theatre director from Catford, said he had become aware of the case through a Facebook group called Stop the Execution of Akmal Shaikh. He said: 'I am appalled by this case. I am against the death penalty any way in all circumstances but I think this is a particularly bad case - where a man who from all reports, clearly is mentally ill and suffers from delusions was duped by a drugs gang into taking a case which contained heroin into China.

Maya Farr, an 18-year-old customer services representative was also present at the vigil. She said 1,600 people had signalled their support for the Facebook campaign. 'I am personally against the death penalty, but there are so many aspects to this case which we are really opposed to. His mental history has not been assessed.'

Reprieve said new witnesses had emerged following publicity about the case who backed up the defence claim about his mental illness. Mr Shaikh was obsessed with recording a song that would usher in world peace, the organisation said.

Two British men, Paul Newberry and Gareth Saunders, both quoted by the organisation, said they had helped Mr Shaikh record a song in Poland and that it was clear that he was mentally ill. Mr Newberry, a British national who lives in Poland, told Reprieve that Mr Shaikh was a 'very, very ill' person. He said in a statement issued by the organisation: 'I was probably one of the last people who saw Akmal before he left Poland in August 2007. I met Akmal in spring 2007 when he started hanging around the tent city that protesting nurses had set up outside the Polish prime minister's offices in Warsaw. The protest attracted a range of 'colourful' characters and he was one of them. As I was British and was with a British friend, Akmal latched on to us. Immediately it was clear that he was mentally ill, although he was a very likeable person, friendly and very open. However, he was clearly suffering from delusions and it seemed to me he was a particularly severe case of manic depressive. I told him a number of times that he should see a doctor, that he was ill, but he just laughed. Any person would have been offended had he been a normal person not in the middle of a psychosis.'

He said Mr Shaikh had shown them lyrics to the song 'Run Little Rabbit' written on a paper napkin and tried to convince them it would be a hit. He said: 'For a few weeks he pestered us until finally we agreed to record it with him. I have no idea who paid for the recording studio but I think he used his charm and persistence to persuade the owner to let him record the song. I can't imagine anyone singing worse than he did on that recording and we told him so, but he was on such a high, convinced that he would have a huge hit. We told him that he was crazy, that it was the worst thing we had ever heard, but he just laughed in our face and repeated that it would be huge.'

China, where you can be shot for tax evasion

China executes four times as many people as the rest of the world put together, writes GEOFFREY WANSELL.

The exact toll is a closely-guarded 'state secret', but estimates range from more than 1,700 to as high as 10,000 a year. At least 60 per cent of public executions are carried out with a single gunshot to the back of the head.

No fewer than 68 crimes are punishable by death in China, including tax evasion, fraud and bribery.

An estimated 90 per cent of the Chinese population support the death penalty, despite the brutality involved.

Authorities also go to great lengths to ensure the killing goes smoothly, with no danger of a doomed prisoner suddenly haranguing the crowd about the unfairness of his trial.

One female prisoner is known to have had her vocal cords cut before she was led out to be killed. But the horror of a Chinese execution does not end with death.

The relatives of the victim may well be offered the bullet that killed their loved one, and then charged the 30p it cost.

They will be also refused access to the corpse. The gruesome explanation for this is that many execution victims have their organs 'harvested' by hospital staff on the orders of police and judges supervising the executions.

The Chinese Government insists officially that such harvesting is entirely illegal, but it is still big business. A heart or liver can fetch as much as £30,000 on the black market.

There are also persistent reports that high-ranking officials who may be in need of an organ transplant make their needs known to the executing officials in their area, who make sure their demands are satisfied.

It is one reason why the Chinese still prefer to use a gunshot to the head ¡V for the damage to the body is far less than it would be from a conventional firing squad. Indeed China's refusal to give outsiders access to the bodies of executed prisoners has increased the suspicion that this is why they are not given to the relatives.

After the 'harvesting', the corpses are usually driven to a crematorium and burned before anyone can view them.

Amnesty International said in a report in 2006 that the huge profits from the sale of prisoners' organs could be part of the reason China refuses to consider doing away with the death penalty.

But author and China expert Jonathan Mirsky says: 'The Chinese do not like to be told what to do by anyone in the outside world. They don't like outside interference ¡V and they show that by not yielding to international pressure, no matter how intense'.

Amnesty also told the Daily Mail yesterday: 'We have serious concerns about whether anyone who has been convicted and sentenced to death has had a fair trial.'

What is not in doubt is that there is a brutal tradition of execution in China ¡V notably in the notorious 'death by a thousand cuts', a form of torture that was finally outlawed only in 1905.

The condemned person was killed by using a knife to methodically remove parts of the body over an extended period. The horrific process sometimes began with the gouging of the eyes ¡V so the victim could not see what would happen next.


(Global Voices Online)  Akmal's death sentence, a resolute No to memory of humiliation?   By Bob Chen.  December 31, 2009.

(Globe and Mail)  Divine right of China.  By Garth M. Evans.  December 31, 2009.

China's execution of British citizen Akmal Shaikh for importing four kilograms of heroin into the country is remarkable. Not because it was a brutal act against a man who may have been innocent and may have been mentally ill but because it was carried out despite 21 formal pleas for clemency from the British government (China Brushes Aside British Rage Over Execution - Dec. 30).

For the past 200 years, Europeans have enjoyed special rights in China. Until 1949, they were exempt from Chinese law and could insist on being dealt with under their own legal system. Since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the special treatment has been informal, but Westerners generally have been exempt from harsh Chinese laws. One way or another, their governments were almost always able to secure their release. China did not want to offend foreign governments for fear of reprisals.

Now China is telling the world there will be no more special deals. If foreigners want to come to China, they'll be treated the same as ordinary Chinese. China is telling the world it has regained its world power status and will now insist on being treated the same as any other world power. Imagine how the U.S. would react if Britain tried to interfere with its criminal justice system. Why should China be any different?

(Telegraph Blogs)  Akmal Shaikh, Gary McKinnon and the opium war the British can't win.  By Josephine McDermott.  December 30, 2009.

It seems, the execution of Akmal Shaikh here yesterday surprised no-one but the British government and its liberal lawyer cronies. You see, if you are in China and you break the law, you are punished. It¡¦s pretty straightforward. And it¡¦s the reason why many of China¡¦s big cities like Shanghai are so safe.

Here, the fact that Akmal Shaikh smuggled 4kg of heroin is what has been focused on. In the UK, the supposition that he had a previously un-diagnosed medical condition is what¡¦s being trumpeted.

Here, the concern has been the damage the 4kg of heroin could have caused the population at large. The drug was enough to kill 26,800 people, the authorities say. There, the concern is the damage to the convict¡¦s human rights.

Here, headlines call him a ¡§heroin fiend¡¨, there he¡¦s a ¡§deluded father-of-three¡¨.

Here, evidence of a medical condition cannot be taken into mitigation unless there is prior, certified medical evidence of that condition. There, spurious medical evidence can be introduced at any time that suits the suspect.

Take Gary McKinnon, the Briton who hacked into the Pentagon¡¦s IT system.  His lawyers claim that extraditing him would violate his human rights and that he is suffering from ¡§very severe depression¡¨. The prospect of a 60-year sentence can do that to you I suppose. In Britain¡¦s eyes, anyone with a sob story and a good lawyer can be protected from justice in the country where they committed their crime.

It¡¦s the ultimate clash of ideologies. China¡¦s changed the economic world order and now it¡¦s giving the liberal West a moral shot in the arm too. While China defends the rights of its people to be protected from class A drugs, Britain would sooner release a drug smuggler into the community than deprive him his right to commit crime.

There¡¦s a colonial undertone too. The UK expected China to yield to the might of Great Britain, like it did in 1839, the first time it defended the smuggling of heroin into China. But China refused, insisting on the independence of its judicial system. The days of British sabre-rattling are gone.

So now it¡¦s time for Gordon Brown to stop embarrassing the UK, realise that spin can¡¦t affect change beyond his pitiful dominion and look at the bigger picture. Making China lose face on an international scale won¡¦t do the economy or the country, any favours.

(Guardian)  How not to handle China.  By Jonathan Fenby.  December 30, 2009.

What is becoming ever more clear as this year rattles to an end is that the west has no idea how to handle China. Since the relationship of the People's Republic will be a key factor in the year (and many more years) ahead, that makes this a core question for the Obama administration and Europe ¡V and, closer to the mainland, for India and Japan as well. But there still seems to be an almost childish reluctance in the west to accept China for what it is, whatever one may think of what it is.

It might be nice if China was more like us, but it isn't going to be. Expecting it to fit into the paradigm set by the west is not only futile but positively dangerous. The sooner governments start to work out a meaningful China policy rather than depending on wishful thinking, the better. It would make a good New year's resolution. But I'm not holding my breath.

The sad case of Akmal Shaikh, the London man executed in China on drug smuggling charges provides the latest example of how little the conventional approach to China on decent humanitarian grounds yields, just as concern abroad about the fate of Charter 08 dissident Liu Xiaobo did nothing to prevent him being sentenced to 11 years in jail on Christmas Day. China has reacted indignantly to the protests about Shaikh. The argument that China has made a mockery of justice has been made on Cif by Clive Stafford Smith. Less convincingly, we have had the descant of a reminder of the opium wars, as if Shaikh was a reincarnation of the East India Company, and relativists trotting out the tired old fallacy that human rights abuses in the west and executions in the US disbar us from protesting at the way the trial was conducted.

Behind this froth, what is plain is that China has once again asserted its determination to protect its own sovereignty whatever the issue, and is intent on doing things its way. Given its economic progress in the past three decades and the immediate effect of its huge pump-priming over the past 12 months in restoring growth (even if the second half of next year may prove more problematic), the leadership and the population feel pretty good about themselves. They are in no mood to take lessons, moral or otherwise, from the west.

In this context, the Shaikh case fits into a string of scratchy non-meetings of mind between China and the west over the last couple of months.

First there has been the long-running issue of the under-valuation of the Chinese currency. The case for appreciation of the yuan is undeniable. Equally undeniable is that Beijing is going to do no such thing until its exports rise back to their pre-crisis levels. Even then it has large amount of excess capacity to keep employed, and tens of millions of workers to provide jobs for when the current infrastructure programme starts to come to an end in the second half of 2010. So, however well-founded the arguments put it by the treasury department in Washington or the European Central Bank, the leadership stands firm.

Then we had the spectacle of Obama's visit to China, during which his "town hall" meeting in Shanghai was transmitted only by one local television station, and during which the Chinese arranged a programme for him that was heavy on tourism. Yes, it ended with a lengthy list of general agreements to co-operate and assurances that the basis was being laid for long-term relationship. But the beef was missing, and US briefings that the two sides had reached meaningful agreement on climate change were swiftly blown apart by the fiasco of Copenhagen.

That conference showed just how western leaders are for understanding how China really works. The idea that, by crashing the meeting of major emerging economies, Obama could reach a last-minute deal with the Chinese prime minister to save the planet would have been laughable if it had not been tragic. Did the US president really think Wen Jiabao had any wriggle room to succumb to his charm and reason? Did he imagine that the prime minister would suddenly jettison 60 years of suspicion of the outside world to allow independent monitoring?

Mark Lynas's much-remarked piece in the Guardian puts the blame squarely on Beijing, but takes no account of how the Chinese system actually operates, seemingly imagining it runs on western lines. The Chinese position would have been set out in advance and approved by the standing committee of the politburo. Wen could not deviate from that, even if he had been minded to do so. He may be prime minister but he ranks third in the standing committee and moves carefully. On such a crucial issue, he would be able to do absolutely nothing that might be seen as jeopardising the domestic economy; China accords importance to the environment but a good deal more to growth.

In addition, several key Chinese leaders were out of Beijing at the time and this is a leadership that likes to have everybody in the room when decisions are made and doesn't believe in long-range teleconferences. So it is safe to assume that China was not in negotiating mode, and that, unless Beijing was being set up as the fall guy, Obama, Brown, Miliband et al should have know this, and negotiated accordingly. The same goes for the currency, human rights and, unfortunately for him, for Shaikh. It is also likely to be the case if trade disputes swell next year, as one must anticipate.

That leads to an underlying element which, again, seems insufficiently appreciated by western governments. General Secretary Hu and Wen operate by consensus. They are careful bureaucrats who do not command an automatic majority in the nine-man standing committee. Gone are the days of Mao getting out of bed one afternoon and deciding on a major policy initiative or of Deng Xiaoping imposing himself on those who nominally held positions superior to him. That is, in a way, healthy, but it means inflexibility at the top. Hu and Wen have to deal with factions, lobbies and powerful state companies. For all the liberation of the goods market, the economy is still tightly controlled in key input areas, buttressing the power of entrenched interests. The Communist party knows it needs to reform itself but is terrified of the effect of doing so.

All that is a recipe for caution. Not for the kind of reasoned flexibility and give-and-take which the west likes to make the basis for relationships between nations (however fallible this proves in practice). Repeating mantras about the need to revalue the yuan, respect human rights, join in independent monitoring or accept emission targets which would threaten the growth that provides the regime's prime legitimacy may be necessary for the west's own self-respect and defence of its own values. But the chances of getting results is razor-thin until a new policy context is evolved.

(China  December 31, 2009.

[in translation]

British drug smuggler Akmal Shaihk died by lethal injection on December 29, 2009 in Urumqi for carrying more than 4 kilograms of heroin.  Before his sentence was carried out, his defense lawyer and the British government pleaded for mercy on the grounds that "Akmal Shaikh suffered from mental illness."  But the Chinese judiciary ultimately decided that Akmal Shaikh did not suffer from mental illness.  On December 30, a Beijing-based criminal law expert gave a detailed explanation.

Chinese Academy of Society Sciences Criminal Law Research Centre director Qu Xuewu said that there are two standards for determining whether the suspect/defendant has mental illness.  The first is a psychological standard by which the principal is determined to be unable to comprehend the nature of his/her own actions.  The second is a medical standard which includes serious psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia.

"The Chinese court judiciary has its own standards for determining mental illness.  What ordinary people call personality disorders, abnormal personality, paranoia and other irregular behaviors do not qualify under those standards.  Thus, the suspect cannot be excused of the appropriate criminal responsibility as a result of those conditions."  Qu Xuewu said.

Before Akmal Shaikh was executed, his defense lawyer appealed on the grounds that he suffered from mental delusions such that he was tricked by a crime organization into bringing drugs into China.  The Supreme People's Court noted in its public notice on the decision for the final appeal that British government officials and a certain Reprieve organization made the request through the lawyer to have a psychiatric examination done for Akmal Shaikh.  But the material provided by the British side was insufficient to show that Akmal Shaikh had mental illness or that his family members have mental illness.  Akhal Shaikj did not offer any relevant material himself either.

The public notice from the Supreme People's Court also noted that the a defendant cannot apply for a psychiatric examination unconditionally.  Instead the appellant must provide a basis that the defendant may be suffering from mental illness.  The court can then evaluate and decide whether and examination needs to be made.  In the case of Akmal Shaikh, the court determined that there was no reason to doubt his mental state.  Therefore, the application for a psychiatric examination failed to meet the conditions for approval.

Qu Xuewu explained that the conditionality required for a psychiatric examination is based upon practical considerations.  At present, a large number of suspects (especially those suspects who are facing execution) are requesting psychiatric examinations.  Clearly, people want to pretend to have mental illness in order to evade legal responsibility.  Therefore, the courts cannot approve all requests for psychiatric examination unconditionally.

"The public notice from the Chinese judiciary noted that the basic conditions for suspecting whether Akmal Shaikh were not met in order to conduct a psychiatric examination, not to say a reprieve on the grounds of mental illness.  Therefore, the condemnations of the British government about the lack of a psychiatric examination for Akmal Shaikh are completely unfounded."  Qu Xuewu said.

Relevant link: Thoughts in Reaction to the Execution of Akmal Shaikh   Siweiluozi's Blog

(China Daily)  Justice served right.  December 31, 2009.

We feel sorry for the loss of any life, even those who deserve to be executed for their crimes. And the death of Akmal Shaikh, a British national who was executed on Tuesday, is no exception. Mourning his death, however, does not mean we disagree with his execution. Nor does it mean we agree with the appeals for his clemency by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his family.

Brown's appeal was based on the claim of Shaikh's family that he had had a history of mental illness. The prime minister has condemned the execution in very strong terms, and even said he is "appalled" that the Chinese court did not grant Shaikh clemency. But the British authorities could not provide any evidence to prove that Shaikh had a long history of mental illness.

However serious a person's crime, his or her family members will never want their loved one to undergo capital punishment. The same is the case with Shaikh's family. And that is understandable.

According to Article 18 of China's Criminal Law, an intellectually challenged person can be pardoned for a crime if it is committed when he or she had no control over his/her action. If his/her mental illness is of an intermittent nature, he/she shall be held guilty if the crime is committed when he/she was in a normal state of mind.

Shaikh's mental state was perfectly sound when he was arrested with 4 kg of heroin upon reaching Urumqi airport in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on Sep 12, 2007.

Intellectually challenged people do a lot of inexplicable things when they lose control of their action. They can turn violent, vandalize property, kill someone or even commit suicide. But seldom have we heard of a mentally ill person hiding as much as 4 kg of heroin in his double-layered suitcase.

That the plaintiff himself reportedly ruled out the possibility of (or any of his family members) having a history of mental disorder contradicts the account of his family. More importantly, Chinese courts deliver the death sentence in extreme cases, and they are extra cautious when a foreigner goes on trial for his crime. In Shaikh's case, the court had no reason not to consider the plaintiff's alleged mental illness if he showed any signs of suffering from it while he was in jail.

Some foreign organizations and media outlets are using the "first execution of a European in China in more than 50 years" to fan passions. Ironically, they have succeeded only in exposing European chauvinism, for they have conveniently forgotten the principle purportedly very close to the heart: All men are created equal and everyone should be equal before the law.

China's Criminal Law applies to anyone who commits a crime in this country. The death penalty is handed down to people guilty of committing the most heinous crimes. Had the court shown leniency toward Shaikh simply because he was a British citizen it would have violated the spirit of the law.

(Telegraph)  Briton executed by China thought he was a July 7 bomber, says daughter   By Rebecca Lefort.  January 2, 2010.

In an exclusive interview his eldest child, Leilla Horsnell, said that at that moment they thought his mental illness had plummeted to a new low. But they learnt they were wrong in September 2007 when he was arrested in China on drug-smuggling charges, leading to a cross-continent battle for justice which ended only last week when the 53-year-old was executed by lethal injection.

Now Mr Shaikh's body lies in an unmarked grave in an icy Muslim cemetery not far from the Xishan Detention Centre in Urumqi, in the northwest of the country, where he was put to death on Tuesday.

Speaking at length for the first time since his execution, Mrs Horsnell told The Sunday Telegraph that she was devastated and appalled that the Chinese authorities had refused to conduct a psychological assessment of her father, despite overwhelming evidence that he suffered from severe bipolar disorder.

"If it made any sense it would be easier," said the 31-year-old. "But I simply can't understand why the Chinese refused to carry out the assessment. I'm still in shock. I still can't believe it because there was so much evidence he was unwell. The whole case is like watching a film or reading a book, there is nothing about it that sounds normal."

Growing up in north London, Mr Shaikh's three children by his first marriage, Leilla, Abdul Jabar and Imran, became accustomed to their father's erratic and irrational behaviour.

But it was not until July 2005 when he sent text messages falsely claiming responsibility for the London attacks - claims which prompted a police investigation - that they finally cut all contact with him, unable, as a Muslim family, to excuse his actions.

"As a child I remember him joking, laughing, smiling and being confident," said Mrs Horsnell, who now lives in Essex. "But he wasn't mature enough to cope with a family at times. He was very childlike, he would fritter in and out of being there mentally. When I last saw him he had very strange ideas, he thought he could set up an airline and just wasn't thinking rationally. But he was clean shaven and very charming, and when I saw the pictures of him recently looking dishevelled it was a shock to see what he had become."

Mr Shaikh's conviction for smuggling 4kg of heroin - hidden in the suitcase of someone he hardly knew - into China turned his family's world upside down, but even before they received the unbelievable call from the Foreign Office the former cab driver had repeatedly caused them deep anxiety.

He was constantly in financial difficulties, was taken to an employment tribunal for sexually harassing a female employee, and eventually left his first wife - who refused to have her name connected with him during the fight to save his life - for his Polish secretary, with whom he has two young children, and moved to Poland.

"He wasn't perfect and it was difficult for us, but he clearly was mentally ill," said Mrs Horsnell, a GP contracts manager. "He could be very charming, and lots of people have written to me to tell me of their fond memories of him. We'll think of him as he was when he was fun and smiling. I'm so sad he didn't feel able to get help for his problems."

Mrs Horsnell said she and many members of her family found they were able to forgive Mr Shaikh for his actions after they realised the true extent of his mental illness - but the Chinese Government refused to show any such clemency.

China's Supreme People's Court insisted it had not been provided with any documentation proving Mr Shaikh had a mental disorder, and rejected bids to allow experts to examine him during his time in Chinese jails.

"Why didn't they just give a psychologist access to him, why were they so adamant?" is the question Mrs Horsnell keeps asking, fearing the reason is that China did not care about the outcome and simply wanted to make an example of Mr Shaikh. No other citizen of a country that is now within the EU has been executed in China since 1951, when an Italian was shot for involvement in an alleged plot to assassinate Mao Tse-Tung.

"I want to say to them, 'Please tell me how you can say he doesn't have a mental illness'. It is scary for anyone with mental health problems in China if they really don't believe a man who thought he was going to be a pop star and had produced a song about rabbits was mentally ill. He was duped into smuggling the drugs because he was told he'd be made a star. Even if they had said he was mentally unwell but that was tough and they were going to execute him anyway, I could understand it more."

Mrs Horsnell said her lack of understanding is what haunts her about her father's death and has made her determined to fight to make sure the injustice does not happen again.

She also fears that that she will regret for ever her decision not to visit him while he awaited his fate in a foreign country. "I was worried I wouldn't recognise him as the man I knew," she explained. "I'm sad that he was on his own, but a lot of the time he was in his own world and he didn't understand what was happening. I'm not sure if not going was the right decision, and it is something I will always be thinking about."

The Chinese, meanwhile, appear to have no second thoughts about their decision. After British politicians, including Gordon Brown and David Cameron, condemned the execution China hit back forcibly, saying, "Nobody has the right to speak ill of China's judicial sovereignty." Officials pointed out that many Chinese citizens had suffered the death penalty for offences involving far smaller quantities of the drug, and said such punishments were necessary as a deterrent.

Mrs Horsnell said she still had no words to describe China's action but she praised the UK's stance and was grateful that behind the scenes the Government, including the Prime Minister, lobbied hard for clemency for more than a year. She also praised the legal charity Reprieve for launching a campaign, during which Polish friends and colleagues of Mr Shaikh came forward to offer more evidence of his mental instability.

Its founder, Clive Stafford Smith, said: "For nine months, since April, the Chinese would first acquiesce to our request that Akmal Shaikh to be evaluated by mental health experts, and then renege. What did they have to lose from fairness?

"Today he is dead, yet the People's Supreme Court has not yet deigned to provide us with its reasons for rejecting his appeal more than a week ago. We filed petitions with all the relevant authorities seeking clemency, and we have received no reasoning from anyone. Why do they feel unable to justify their decision?"

It is the question to which his devastated family will continue to seek an answer, so they can finally get some sense of justice for their imperfect but much-loved Akmal Shaikh.

(Sunday Independent)  Western cant at China beggars belief.  By Eilis O'Hanlon.  January 3, 2010.

AKMAL Shaikh is -- or rather, was -- the first European citizen to be executed in China in 50 years. During that time, the Chinese authorities have done to death tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of their own citizens without provoking a fraction of the same outrage which the death by lethal injection of this 53- year-old father of five, convicted two years ago of smuggling heroin into the country and finally executed last week, brought in its wake.

Actually, that's not fair. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have long been critical of the record of the People's Republic of China. It is the media which has largely chosen to ignore Chinese abuses, while emoting loudly every time the switch is pulled on some serial murderer in an electric chair in Huntsville, Texas. As a result, the general public could be forgiven for thinking that it is America which does away with the most prisoners each year, when in fact our Yankee cousins are, in per capita terms, in the halfpenny place in that particular department, trailing well behind their Muslim counterparts in Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as other Asian countries such as North Korea.

That kind of whataboutery isn't very productive, admittedly. Nothing would ever be said or done if, every time someone raised an important issue about human rights, someone else instantly shot back: "Yeah, but what about X?" (insert your own random hobby horse).

There's nothing necessarily wrong either with being more concerned with the fate of one's own fellow citizens than with anonymous strangers, however unjustly treated, on the other side of the world. It's human nature to care more about those to whom one can put a name, face and story. The case against Akmal Shaikh also had more holes in it than a Swiss cheese.

Even so, the hypocrisy on this side of the world in response to his tragic death has been staggering. The fact that China executes thousands of people every year in similarly dubious circumstances, harvesting their organs for transplants in the process and then burying them in secret, didn't stop us from going along wholeheartedly with the festival of fun that was the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

That year, Amnesty International estimates that China killed approximately 1,700 people, out of a worldwide total number of executions of 2,390. The true figures are believed to be much higher, since the statistics are a state secret.

This was well down on other years, when the number of executions has topped 10,000, but then China was putting on its best face to a world which had come to Beijing to party, not to have the mood spoiled by the sound of gravedigging. And if it's not cultural appeasement, then it's the economy, stupid, as Western governments keep quiet about Chinese human rights abuses in order not to frighten away all those precious yuan.

We're just as bad. President McAleese troops around the world, waffling about Ireland's deep concern for moral values, but who cares how many hands or heads they chop off as long as the Arabs love our beef? Trade is all. Which is why Irish female politicians cover themselves up and sit quietly, speaking only when spoken to, like good little girls, on economic delegations to Saudi Arabia; and why China was Brian Cowen's first overseas trade mission on becoming Taoiseach, when the closest he came to criticising his hosts on human rights was admitting that "our angles of vision are different". That's telling 'em.

But, suddenly, we're supposed to be outraged at the execution of Akmal Shaikh? It's bizarre. Turn on Morning Ireland to hear that another drug dealer has been shot dead in a feud in north inner city Dublin, and the response of most listeners is a shrug of indifference, because who cares if drug dealers kill one another, right?

And if the garda heavy gang duffed up some ne'er-do-well in the line of duty, there'd be private congratulations at another scumbag taken off the streets. But when the Chinese courts put an end to the life of a drug smuggler, we're meant to find it uniquely shocking and start sending letters of protest. His supporters insisted that Akmal Shaikh deserved special treatment because he was suffering from bipolar disorder -- or manic depression, as it used to be called. The fact that the British government, who took the lead in this case because the former taxi driver grew up in the UK, failed to provide medical evidence for this alleged illness was, conveniently, overlooked. Also, being bipolar doesn't turn a law-abiding man into a drug smuggler overnight.

Nor was Shaikh's story of being the innocent dupe of Asian drug smugglers who had lured him to the People's Republic in the hope of becoming a pop star exactly convincing. Though what else can you say when you're caught at the airport with four kilos of heroin in hidden compartments in your suitcase? There are plenty of prisoners in European jails who tried that one too. They're not facing execution for it, but then that just brings us back again to square one, which is that China's record of executing those found guilty of breaking its laws may be many things, but earth-shattering news isn't one of them.

The country may have flirted with limited human-rights reforms in recent years, but its overall record on the ruthless suppression of religious and ethnic minorities and political dissenters easily makes the People's Republic the murderous totalitarian equivalent of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. It's only cultural cringe which stops self-hating Western liberal intellectuals from subjecting the Chinese to the same standards which they demand closer to home.

Akmal Shaikh picked the wrong place to be caught with a bag full of heroin, but also the wrong place to be caught in an international spat about human rights.

The row will simmer for a while, but, between them, the money men and the sneaking regarders will make sure his name vanishes faster than the phrase "Falun Gong" from a Chinese search engine.

Still, at least the butchers of Bejing aren't hypocrites. Official Chinese communist ideology states openly that the rights of the individual are expendable in the services of the "harmonious society". They practise what they preach. What's our excuse?

(News of the World)  I don't care about drug smugglers' rights.  January 3, 2010.

ENOUGH of screaming from outraged politicians condemning China for executing a drug-smuggling Brit with mental problems.

The same goes for the obligatory all-night vigil outside the Chinese Embassy in London by protesters in woolly hats, banging on about the barbarism of taking a human life.

All very predictable stuff. But forgive me if I refuse to join the protests.

Because what I care about is what they're saying in the drug-ravaged housing schemes across the country.

Or in the homes where parents have watched their children swallowed up by heroin and who live in fear of the midnight knock to tell them their son or daughter has been found dead in some drug den.

I think if you listen closely, you'll hear the collective applause from communities who will greet the execution of a heroin smuggler with undisguised approval.

You won't find any sympathy in this column for a heroin smuggler - whether he's bumped off by a dealer or executed in a foreign land.

I'm sorry if that offends deep sensibilities on the sanctity of human life. But the true story of heroin smuggling is a short one, with no happy ending. Not for drug mules like 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh, above, who always end up dead one way or another, or for the emaciated prostitute who dies because of a bad batch of heroin.

It's ironic that Shaikh was killed by a lethal injection - the way so many junkies die when heroin is cut by the kind of pond life he was smuggling for. But that is the grim reality of what he was caught up in - whether you believe he was mentally ill or not.

If politicians would take their heads out of their backsides long enough to stop trying to score points, they might appreciate what the rest of us think.

Because apart from a minority of protesters, nobody really gives a stuff about the human rights of a drug smuggler, whether he's in this country or on death row in some far flung land.

And frankly, while manic depression is a serious illness, we're all getting a bit fed up of the bipolar card that gets played every time somebody wants to justify a crime - or as an excuse for making an idiot of themselves.

Whether Shaikh was bipolar and delusional we'll never know. What happened to him when he left Poland is anybody's guess, but he says he was duped into carrying the 4kg of heroin into China.

But do bipolar people not know right from wrong? Would they know not to carry a suitcase onto a plane unless they were sure what it contained?

And in any case, the Chinese don't do bipolar. In a regime where they execute people for tax evasion, telling them you're bipolar or pre-menstrual when you commit a crime isn't going stop them shooting you.

China, in every aspect of human rights, is as brutal and barbaric as they come. They execute 1,718 people every year for a variety of 68 crimes including rape and corruption.

It's not humane, but it's effective.

In China crime is low - there's a fear factor for anyone thinking about smuggling heroin.

Perhaps Shaikh was duped. But isn't that what they all say?

We've seen Brits weeping in hellhole jails from Thailand to Turkey, claiming they were conned into carrying drugs. Invariably they get pardoned after politicians intervene.

But this is the China syndrome. Diplomacy doesn't work there.

Of course regimes like that can't teach us about human rights. But look how WE treat drug smugglers.

We give them a cushy life in jail with satellite telly and home visits, while they continue to run their empire from behind bars - and sue for compensation if their shirt isn't ironed properly.

Is that how we should reward them?

In the boarded-up housing schemes where you have to pick your feet through the discarded needles, you won't find any sympathy for the likes of Akmal Shaikh.

Out in the real world, people are wondering: If you can execute one heroin smuggler, then why not all of them?

(Daily Mirror)  China has a point on dealing with crime.  By Tony Parsons.  January 2, 2010.

Crime is a bit different in China.

Old people aren¡¦t afraid to go to the shops. You don¡¦t see mobs of drunks reeling around or gangs of teenagers hanging about the parks.

And women can walk around big cities like Shanghai and Beijing at any time of the day or night without fear of molestation.

The People¡¦s Republic of China is, in a word, safe.

Yes, it has the death penalty for 68 offences and no doubt that has something to do with it. In China, breaking the law is no small thing, because getting caught means getting punished.

And punishment will not be a fine, an Asbo or community service.

So while I regret the execution of Akmal Shaikh, the British man caught with a suitcase containing £250,000 worth of heroin, I think the reaction of the British Government is shrill beyond belief.

I would have liked to see the state of Akmal Shaikh¡¦s mental health established beyond all doubt.

But the Chinese did not believe that this man was mentally disabled. And you can see their point. He ran a business for years in the UK ¡V how mentally disabled can he be?

It is no good wheeling Akmal Shaikh¡¦s terrible pop song out as evidence that he was bi-polar. It was no worse than the stuff we laugh about at every audition of Britain¡¦s Got Talent.

The Chinese could have shown compassion by setting him free. But, ultimately, such softness is not in them. They remind us that amount of heroin could kill 28,000 people.

I saw some expert on the BBC doubting the Chinese statistic that over 90% of their people support the death penalty. I doubt it, too. I think the real figure is much higher. 

They do things differently over there. And do you think the Chinese envy our drug-raddled, crime-infested, gang-banged cities?

I promise they do not. And I ask you ¡V who are the real barbarians?

(Newsweek)  All Politics is Local.  By Isaac Stone Fish.  January 4, 2010.

Most people forgot that China's autocratic leaders receive a mandate to rule from their citizens, even if it's implicit. If the Communist Party keeps its country safe, strong, and prosperous, Chinese citizens will limit dissent and tolerate repression. If not, file under Iran, circa January 2010. Seen in this light, China¡¦s execution last week of British citizen Akmal Shaikh for smuggling more than eight pounds of heroin into China in 2007 was not the international diplomatic fiasco the press made it out to be; it was stroke of domestic political genius. At a time when Chinese law enforcement is looking especially feeble, Shaikh allowed them a little bit of swagger.

The Dec. 29 execution by lethal injection caused an uproar in Britain, as Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Shaikh's family, and other British government ministers had called on China to show clemency because of Pakistani-born Shaikh's history of mental illness. But the Chinese said Shaikh lacked proof of mental illness and declined to do their own tests. And the truth is that they didn't need to know; this execution was good for China. Afterward, to demonstrate it had no regrets, Chinese police arrested two Afghan and two more Pakistani heroin smugglers and said they might also get the most extreme penalty.

That's because, in the last six weeks, cases of deranged murderers have been all over the Chinese news. Police arrested a migrant worker suspected of hacking and burning to death at least 11 family members in Hunan province; a county government spokesperson said he had a history of mental illness, though many of his surviving relatives denied that allegation. The suspect for a stabbing spree that left six dead in Inner Mongolia committed suicide. A man in Hebei province killed seven of his relatives with a blunt instrument in order to take revenge for a family dispute; he then jumped off a building. Police captured a man suspected of murdering his parents after escaping from a mental hospital. A man allegedly killed five people at a New Year's party on the outskirts of Beijing; witnesses say they included his girlfriend and a pregnant woman.

In a country that likes to project a sense of omniscience to its citizens, these rampages¡Xcoming in on top of the other¡Xhave shaken Chinese confidence. Shaikh may in fact, as his family claimed, have been tricked into becoming a mule by drug dealers promising him a recording contract for his song "Come Little Rabbit," which he wrote to promote world peace. But by killing him, China is telling its citizens it's going to protect them the best way it knows how from the mentally unstable, whether they are carrying machetes or suitcases full of drugs.

At the same time, Beijing was able to cast Shaikh as more than just a lunatic. Because of his British family¡Xand British agitation for his release¡Xhe also played into Chinese anxieties about imperialism and opiate smuggling. Referred to as a "national disgrace," every Chinese schoolchild learns that the Opium Wars of the mid-19th century were an embarrassing military defeat for China, leading to the cession of Hong Kong to Britain, widespread opium addiction, and British immunity in Chinese courts. This immunity, known as extraterritoriality, was especially galling because it essentially meant the Chinese legal system wasn't good enough for the British.

Authorities today still find ways to keep the memory of those outrages fresh.

Enter Shaikh. The Chinese Embassy in Britain said that, "In China, given the bitter memory of history and the current situations, the public has a particular and strong resentment towards [drug trafficking]." Chinese netizens have called this execution part of "the modern Opium Wars," and one lamented that "170 years later, Britain is again picking at China's wounds." The blog site Global Voices quoted another saying, "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 anymore."

Which is why, in addition to being a law-and-order case, Shaikh's execution (the first of a European citizen in more than 50 years) is also a statement of Chinese judicial independence¡Xnot from the Communist Party but from the system of extraterritoriality in which Westerners disdained Chinese courts. Today, China's foreign-ministry spokesperson insisted, in the face of British protests, that China's judicial independence brooks no interference from the outside. On the Web site of the patriotic newspaper Global Times, a poll showed that 97 percent of more than 15,000 respondents supported the execution. Strained relations with Britain are a small price to pay to vindicate the national identity.

(Wikipedia)  Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive disorder, manic depressive psychosis, manic depression or bipolar affective disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated mood clinically referred to as mania or, if milder, hypomania. Individuals who experience manic episodes also commonly experience depressive episodes or symptoms, or mixed episodes in which features of both mania and depression are present at the same time. These episodes are usually separated by periods of "normal" mood, but in some individuals, depression and mania may rapidly alternate, known as rapid cycling. Extreme manic episodes can sometimes lead to psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.


Diagnosis is based on the self-reported experiences of an individual as well as abnormalities in behavior reported by family members, friends or co-workers, followed by secondary signs observed by a psychiatrist, nurse, social worker, clinical psychologist or other clinician in a clinical assessment ... there are no biological tests which confirm bipolar disorder ...

Clinical Scale: The Bipolar Spectrum Diagnostic Scale (BSDS):

Here is a story which consists of 19 sentences.

[ ] Some individuals noticed that their mood and/or energy levels shift drastically from time to time. 
[ ] These individuals notice that, at times, they are moody and/or energy level is very low , and at other times, and very high.
[ ] During their " low" phases, these individuals often feel a lack of energy, a need to stay in bed or get extra sleep, and little or no motivation to do things they need to do. 
[ ] They often put on weight during these periods. 
[ ] During their low phases, these individuals often feel "blue," sad all the time, or depressed. 
[ ] Sometimes, during the low phases, they feel helpless or even suicidal. 
[ ] Their ability to function at work or socially is impaired. 
[ ] Typically, the low phases last for a few weeks, but sometimes they last only a few days. 
[ ] Individuals with this type of pattern may experience a period of "normal" mood in between mood swings, during which their mood and energy level feels "right" and their ability to function is not disturbed. 
[ ] They may then noticed they marked shift or "switch" in the way they feel. 
[ ] Their energy increases above what is normal for them, and they often get many things done they would not ordinarily be able to do. 
[ ] Sometimes during those "high" periods, these individuals feel as if they had too much energy or feel "hyper". 
[ ] Some individuals, during these high periods, may feel irritable, "on edge," or aggressive . 
[ ] Some individuals, during the high periods, take on too many activities at once. 
[ ] During the high periods, some individuals may spend money in ways that cause them trouble. 
[ ] They may be more talkative, outgoing or sexual during these periods. 
[ ] Sometimes, their behavior during the high periods seems strange or annoying to others. 
[ ] Sometimes, these individuals get into difficulty with co-workers or police during these high periods. 
[ ] Sometimes, they increase their alcohol or nonprescription drug use during the high periods.

After you read the above, please decide which of the following is most accurate:

  • this story fits me very well, or almost perfectly

  • this story fits me fairly well

  • this story fits me to some degree, but not in most respects

  • this story doesn't really describe me at all

Out of the 19 sentences, how many accurately describes you.  Then add

  • 6 points if 'this story fits me very well, or almost perfectly'

  • 4 points if 'this story fits me fairly well'

  • 2 points if 'this story fits me to some degree, but not in most respects'

  • 0 points if 'this story doesn't really describe me at all'

Your highest possible score is 19+6 = 25 and your lowest possible score is 0.

You are "highly likely to have bipolar spectrum disorder" if you score 19 or higher
You have "moderate probability of bipolar spectrum disorder" if you score between 11 and 18
You have "low probability of bipolar spectrum disorder" if you score between 6 and 10
You are "highly unlikely to have bipolar spectrum disorder" if you score less than 6

Do you have "bipolar spectrum disorder"?