Today, China has executed British citizen Akmal Shaikh. Akmal is a 53 year old who is described as having “mental problems”. He was arrested two years ago for smuggling heroin in from Tajikistan. It is widely reported that he was tricked into this action. I am not questioning whether Akmal was innocent or not, but what I am questioning is, how many of the 2,390 people that China executed (that we know about) in 2008 where innocent? This blog is not about Akmal, it is about the thousands of people that China has executed and is in-line to execute!
I will not hide the fact that I am a strong opponent to the Death Penalty. I think it is a barbaric and out-dated punishment. I think it is ineffectual in fighting crime and I think it is irreversible when the judiciary gets it wrong. What I wish to present here however, is why China’s situation is unique and needs the world’s attention. I hope to put out an argument to suggest that even the most hardened supporters of the death penalty should be disgusted by what is happening in China.
Firstly, China executed 2,390 people that we know of in 2008. That’s 72% of executions from around the world. This is a huge number by anyone’s standards (even taking into consideration the population size of China they execute by far the most per, 1000 citizens). The worrying part of these figures is that we do not actually know how many people China executes annually. They still refuse to make public the figures arguing that they are “state secrets”. You have to question why they are considered a “state secret”. Estimates have been as high 10,000. This is going beyond executions and bordering on an annual slaughter!
Secondly, the different offenses that are considered to be serious enough to judicially execute someone for in China, is breath taking. Tax evasion, fraud, robbery, are all considered serious enough to end someone’s life. Call me old fashioned, but does this not strike you as being a smidgen disproportionate? I shall re-state that of course I oppose the death penalty in all situations, but you can follow the mislead logic to why you might want to execute a murder or a rapist. Someone who avoids paying taxes though?
The death penalty is used in a more widespread and systematic way than in any other nation state in the world. They continue to execute both nationals and foreigners (arguing non-discrimination!). It is time that even the most ardent supporters of the death penalty stood up and said that what China is doing is wrong! There is no justification for the mass-murder that is currently taking place in China. There is complete disregard for human life. In the lead up to the Olympics China promised to improve its human rights records. We need to question why they do not consider their use of the death penalty not to be a violation of their human rights commitments!
This is one occasion where I stand side by side with the Daily Mail: