外国记者 Foreign Correspondent

Reporting in China

Did we mention the Opium War?

with 16 comments

On Tuesday, Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year-old Briton who was caught in Xinjiang with four kilograms of heroin in his bag, became the first European to be executed in China for 50 years.
Shaikh’s case has caused uproar in the UK, where campaigners say that he was mentally ill and manipulated into carrying the drugs into China.
After sustained media pressure (and remember that this is Christmas time, when big stories are thin on the ground and papers lap up any news), the case has now been turned into a diplomatic issue, with Ivan Lewis, a British Foreign Office minister, saying the Chinese had ignored 27 appeals from the UK to reconsider the case and perform a mental evaluation of Shaikh. In Pittsburgh, at the G20, Gordon Brown raised the case with Hu Jintao and then again in Copenhagen with Wen Jiabao.
Mr Lewis said he was “sick to my stomach” at the decision to go ahead and execute Shaikh without testing his sanity.
I don’t know whether Shaikh was mentally ill or not. We now will not ever know. However, the story of his life is a sad one. His wife refused to have anything to do with during his incarceration and does not want her name to be known.
He has not seen any of his three children in the UK for years and was also reportedly estranged from his two children in Poland. He had spent time living homeless. His songwriting ambitions and his rambling emails suggest, at best, that he was extremely eccentric.
Article 18 of the 1997 Criminal Code states that the courts must be lenient with suspects who are mentally incapacitated and therefore unaware of their actions. However, the court has discretion to decide whether or not a mental evaluation is necessary. Mentally-ill foreigners have been treated more leniently by courts in the past.
I would hazard a guess that the local court in Urumqi would have been under enormous pressure to convict Shaikh and not to search too hard for mitigating factors. He was carrying a huge haul of drugs, 80 times the quantity that would have qualified him for the death sentence.
Moreover, as the Chinese embassy pointed out, Shaikh had no record of mental illness. He had not been committed to an institution for treatment.
Whether or not Shaikh was mentally ill, the rhetoric from both the UK and China, and the lack of understanding on both sides, shows again how poor the relationship is between China and the West.
On the UK side, predictable articles condemning China for barbarism, including one in the Daily Mail which macabrely sketched out how Shaikh’s corneas would be removed for transplant, would be more forgiveable if the UK took a similar stance against the death penalty in other countries, such as, ahem, the United States.

The reaction from the Chinese, however, has been to raise the spectre of the Opium War and of colonial extraterritoriality, when British subjects were not subject to Chinese law. Since I arrived in China, nearly two years ago, I reckon I have heard the Opium War raised at least twice a week, either in the media or in conversations with Chinese. This war took place 170 years ago and it is time that people got over it. After all, there are far more recent tragedies that no one mentions.

The fact that the Chinese embassy feels the need to point out Britain’s history of colonial oppression, and to suggest that current policy is influenced by events in the far past, does it no favours at all in terms of building China’s “soft power”. It merely reinforces the idea that China is stridently nationalistic and determined to be unaccountable.

It would win more points by outlining the legal process which convicted Shaikh, and by pointing out that every death sentence in China is now examined by the Supreme Court, a recent reform which has led to a dramatic decrease in executions.





Written by malcolmmoore

December 30, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

16 Responses

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  1. 1.事实上,中国中学近代史的教科书第一章讲的就是鸦片战争和南京条约。学生被老师告知,就像新中国成立标志着现代史的开始一样,鸦片战争是一个近代史的开始。我的意思是,教育起了很大的作用。


    December 30, 2009 at 8:12 pm

  2. 历史不能被遗忘,特别是对一个国家极其重要的一段历史。这个国家的凝聚力很大程度上来源于对中国近代历史的解读和反思。


    December 31, 2009 at 3:16 am

  3. Britain didn’t mention the opium war. Well, anyway, it was just one of the many wars you started in you past. It’s easy for you to say the “forget and forgive” thing.
    But you did mention “gunboat diplomacy” by some reporter named Goerge Pitcher at Telegraph. That’s so “opium war” and “great britain empire-ish”. And obviously, the chinese people didn’t take that too kindly.
    “Opium war” for us Chinese people was the bitter beginning of a long, miserable and humiliating history. We learned from our colonism history, the deaths of million Chinese people, that we should never forget “opium war”. So, what’s wrong with that and what the fuck is wrong with you people.
    Mel Gibson said somthing about Jewsish people and that nearly costed his career. History is history, accept it. If your country did something bad in the first place, don’t blame the victim of bringing this up. And easily labelling “nationalism” on Chinese people’s sentiment dosen’t help, because you don’t know, or you just don’t want to know the Chinese people’s mentality. Yeah, it’s easier to dismiss them as “nationalists” or “brainwashed commie”. Such lazy journalism.
    For the record, the Chinese government this time expressly said it was about “judicial sovereinty” instead of bringing up the whole “opium war” drama.
    It is the British government that blew this out of proportion. It was 4 kilograms of heroin, it happened in an airport of China, so the Chinese judicial department executed that man according to Chinese law. End of the story.

    Sun Ji

    December 31, 2009 at 1:15 pm

  4. I wonder the real intention of the British government this time.
    Public official protests, newspaper “China bashing” wouldn’t help, and the government people clearly knew that. If the british people really wanted to save that drug dealer, they should’ve done something under the table instead of putting pressure on China publicly. Their “efforts” actually cornerd the Chinese government (by both your condescending attitudes and the concerns of Chinese people) and only produced counter effect. I bet if China did spare that drug dealer, the next thing your journalists would say is the independece of Chinese judicial department and how the Chinese administrative body interfere with the judicial system. Anyway, you are always right, even if you are wrong, you are “righteously” wrong.
    So I reckon either the british government didn’t have any intention to save that drug dealer in the first place and they decided to start a new round of China bashing (christman time, no big news and people are bored).
    Or, the british government did something and it failed, and they wouldn’t let a british national die in vain. It is a perfect chance to trash the Chinese legal system and incite the China-bashing sentiment.
    Now, things are getting highly political.

    I think it’s kind of pathetic that the “Great British Empire” actaully use a drug dealer, whose heroin wolud kill thousands of people for a political show.

    If the british government really have anything against Chinese legal system or death penalty, bring it up at some human rights conference, but not this time!
    British people, drug dealer and the British Queen(face it, that woman was once the biggest drug dealer and slave trader in the world.) combined really won’t invoke any pleasant memory in Chinese people. Oops… did I mention the “opium war” again!

    Sun Ji

    December 31, 2009 at 1:50 pm

  5. It is time for we Chinese to get over the Opium War?NO!WE WILL NEVER GET OVER OR FORGET IT!

    The Opium War was the beginning of modern Chinese history, and also the beginning of the history of China’s century of humiliation.Do we have any reason to get over, or forget the history of this humiliation?

    I remember that Comrade Deng Xiaoping to the Hong Kong issue with Madame Margaret Thatcher once said of the negotiations: “The Chinese people are poorer, but WE are not fear of death.” Britain there was a clamor again for us to take “gunboat diplomacy”, which are just paper tigers only!

    From 1840 onwards, China has experienced a century of humiliation. Chinese people into submission it? NEVER!

    In 1950, the Yankees tried to burn the flames of war from the Korean Peninsula and China, but they finally get what? General Clark recalled like this: “I was the first victory in the absence of an armistice agreement was signed by General of the United States.”Although the Chinese People’s Volunteers Army did not liberate the whole Korea, we gave all of the imperialists a lesson on the vivid!

    Today, there are a number of Britons doing “follow the sun empire” dreams can be imagined as in the past, in China, from the beach shelves a few pieces of artillery will be able to let the Chinese government to yield.The Chinese people can proudly tell these Brits: “NUTS!”

    Finally, tell these arrogant Brits this: if you have the ability,sent your troops to China, to have another “Opium War”; Otherwise, please SHUT UP YOUR F**KING MOUSES!


    December 31, 2009 at 9:53 pm

  6. Why don’t you go ahead and tell all the African Americans to “get over” the slavery and stop talking about it incessantly? It ended at roughly the same as the second Opium War, i. e. “a long time ago”.


    January 1, 2010 at 12:52 am

  7. 提醒所有的西方人,彭德怀将军曾经说过:“西方侵略者几百年来只要在东方的海岸上架起几尊大炮就可以霸占一个国家的时代是一去不复返了!”英国佬、德国佬、法国佬,你们在东方为所欲为的时代早已结束,面对现实吧!
    Reminded all Westerners, General Peng Dehuai once said: “As long as the Western invaders for centuries in the East seashores by erecting several cannons on to occupy a country is a thing of the past era!”Brits, Jerries, French guys, you do whatever they like in the east of the era has ended, face it!


    January 3, 2010 at 3:07 am

  8. Shame on this British journalist who has such deep hatred to Chinese people that he has completely lost basic human decency! Opium War was an important part of Chinese history, why can’t Chinese people talk about it? Of course, British drug dealers would love Chinese people to forget Britain’s horrible anti-human crimes, but Chinese will NEVER NEVER forget it! The biggest joke in the world since the 20th century has been: drug dealers, looters, racists, war mongers and barbarians in a few old colonial countries have been preaching “morality, human rights, freedom and equality” to peace-loving people (Chinese, Asians, Africans, and people in other regions). This British journalist, like some other people working for BBC and mainstream west media are the biggest hypocrits in the entile solar system. This “foreign correspendent”, like some of his peers, DO NOT have any moral credibility to talk about justice, morality, and human rights!

    Real justice

    January 4, 2010 at 11:27 pm

  9. Maybe Britain should allow all drug dealers in the world to move to Britain and happily enjoy “freedom and human rights” there.

    Are drug dealers loved by British government and media?

    January 5, 2010 at 1:58 am

  10. If 1840 is the turning point in Chinese nationalism, what about the periods before that? How did the Qing grow to have one of the world’s largest empires in the world? Was this a peaceful process? Has China ever apologized to the millions of dead people in Central Asia for its continual expansion, or is “imperialism” only bad if it’s done by the so called “Western” powers?

    如果中国人把1840年看作为一个转折点,怎么解释1840年之前的历史?清朝使用了什么样的方式来变成世界上最大的帝国之一?只用和平方式(当然不是,在故宫你就可以看到祝贺清朝暴力战争的证据)?这个扩展领土的过程是不是和平的?在这个用暴力的手段来侵略别人领土的过程中 (比如,清朝列强军队屠杀了四十万准格尔人),中国领导人有没有给住在中亚的人民任何道歉?

    西方的帝国主义要永远记在心里,但中国的帝国主义就是值得庆祝? 这个是不是用两种不同的道德标准吗?



    January 5, 2010 at 6:40 pm

  11. THE boss of a Kentish Town minicab firm has disappeared after being ordered to
    pay more than £10,000 to a 24-year-old employee he sexually harassed.
    A tribunal ruled in June that Akmal Shaikh, the owner of Teksi in Fortess Road,
    had sexually harassed Sarrah El-Atar almost from the moment he hired her to
    work as a sales and marketing manager.
    He had instructed a recruitment agency to send him only the CVs of “well
    groomed” women under 25, and took Ms El-Atar out to dinner before she
    started work “to get to know her better”, he said.
    Once she started, he would stare at her and look her up and down, commenting
    on her “sexy legs and good body” and saying that she was young and pretty
    and that he would have “had” her if he was 20 years younger.
    He told her she had only been employed for her looks and asked often about
    her sexual relationship with her boyfriend, said findings published by the
    Tribunal. Failing to pay her more than half her wages, he complained that he
    had not had sex in seven months and was divorcing his wife.
    When he complimented her on her clothes and asked if she was wearing them
    to please her, she asked him to stop.
    In turn he accused her of dressing inappropriately – a charge dismissed by the
    Within a week of writing a letter of complaint she was sacked unlawfully.
    Mr Shaikh and his son, Abdul-Jabbar, both failed to attend the tribunal hearings
    and sold the business to another minicab firm soon after it was announced that
    they would have to pay a total of £10255.97 in unpaid wages and damages.
    The 42-day period in which Mr Shaikh could have lodged an appeal with the
    tribunal passed last week.
    A spokesman for Concorde, the firm which took on Teksi’s business, said Mr
    Shaikh had since “disappeared”, adding: “His decision to sell probably had
    something to do with this case – we don’t have anything to do with him.”
    Ms El-Atar said: “I’m relieved to have won the case, which was prolonged by
    this man’s delay tactics.
    “It is good to have cleared these slurs from my name but I still have not had a
    penny of what I am owed and the letters my lawyer has sent demanding the
    money have not been answered.”

    David Mao

    January 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm

  12. 好笑了咧
    169年!!当然,对一个文明历史只有1000多年的国家来说,这个时间还是挺长的= =

    - -

    January 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm

  13. 100个中国人100个都知道鸦片战争,100个英国人里大概不到5个知道他们的祖国曾经为了强行向一个东方国家输入毒品而发动一场战争,而且这场战争直到现在他们还不承认是为了毒品输入而发动,只叫做“贸易战争”,哈哈。不要跟白人讲正义,正义只存在于白人和基督徒世界里。





    January 11, 2010 at 10:22 am

  14. Let’s say now there is a war against UK to make it the most poor country in the world. And let’s make UK continue to be the most poor country in the world for 100 years. Then finally let we say that you UK people should forget the war since it has been a long long time. Do you UK people enjoy it?


    January 12, 2010 at 9:11 am

  15. if we chinese forget the history of “Opium Wars”, then we are deserved to be slaved!!! we can forgive but we shall never forget!!!

    the case was irrelevant until british government and british press tried to politicize the case.


    January 12, 2010 at 11:47 am

  16. “On the UK side, predictable articles condemning China for barbarism, including one in the Daily Mail which macabrely sketched out how Shaikh’s corneas would be removed for transplant, would be more forgiveable if the UK took a similar stance against the death penalty in other countries, such as, ahem, the United States.” – Don’t worry. Your government will never ever be against USA.

    Btw, If he was homeless, I am curious how he paid for the airplane tickets. Who manipulated him? If Mr. Brown was really concerned about it. Finding this manipulator and proving it in your country should be a piece of cake. So, who is it?

    For safety, the Britain drug traffickers or drug dealers should not go to China forever. IT IS REALLY DANGEROUS. HaHa~~


    January 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

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