外国记者 Foreign Correspondent

Reporting in China

Posts Tagged ‘opium war

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.


阿克毛.沙伊克,在新疆因随包携带四公斤海洛因而被捕的53岁英籍人士,成为中国50年来第一个被处以死刑的欧洲人。

阿克毛的案子在英国引起了地震,请愿者称其患有精神疾病,且是被哄骗携带毒品至中国的。
经受住了媒体的轰炸(注意这可是圣诞假期,没什么重大事情发生,报纸媒体渴求任何新闻),这个案子现在演变成了外交事件。英国外交部高官刘易斯宣称中国无视英方27次对此案宽大处理并进行精神疾鉴定的请求。在匹兹堡的G20峰会上,布朗首相就向胡锦涛主席提过此案,并且在之后的哥本哈根会议上再次向温家宝总理提及。
刘易斯称当听闻法院没有进行精神病鉴定就直接判刑并执行死刑时,“恶心的胃疼”。
我不知道阿克毛精神是否正常。现在我们再也无法得知了。然而,他的一生是个悲剧。在其监禁期间,他的妻子已和他断绝了关系,并坚持隐瞒姓名。
他和他在英国的三个孩子多年未见,并且有报道说他和他在波兰的两个孩子关系也疏远。他曾有一段时间露宿街头。他写词作曲的雄心和杂乱无章的邮件表明,至少,他是个极端怪异的人。
中国1997年的刑法十八条表明对于精神有障碍的嫌疑人应该从轻处罚,因其不能辨认自己的行为。但同时法院有决定是否进行精神病鉴定的自主权。在过去,精神有障碍的外籍人士在中国的法院有被从轻处罚的案例。
我敢臆断当初判决阿克毛时,乌鲁木齐当地法院是面临了巨大的压力,也不能够费力寻求折中的方案。因为阿克毛携带了巨量的毒品,为此够判80次死刑的。
就如中国大使馆所言,阿克毛并没有精神疾病方面的纪录。他也没去过相关的医疗机构接受治疗。
不管阿克毛有无精神疾病,中英双方的政治辞令交锋和就此案彼此间缺乏理解认同,彰显出了一直以来中国和西方的关系有多糟糕。
英国方面,当然会有文章谴责中国野蛮,包括每日邮报的一篇报道,甚为骇人地描画了阿克毛的眼角膜被摘取做移植手术。如果英国在对其它国家的死刑采取同样态度的话,例如,呃,美国,可能会得到中方的一些认同吧。
中国的反应,却是联想到了鸦片战争和殖民侵略,那时英国的人事是不受中国法律约束的。
我来到中国快有两年。记得最初我每隔两周就会听到鸦片战争的话题,在新闻报道里或是和中国人的谈话交流中。这场战争发生在170年前,是时候人们该淡忘了。事实上,很多近期的惨剧却无人提及。
中国大使馆觉得有必要提及英国的殖民侵略历史,表明目前的政策是受久远的历史事件影响的,这与中国增强软实力其实没有多少益处吧。这只能让人们加深对中国不可理喻的民族主义,并一意孤行的印象。

如果能公布审判裁决阿克毛的法律过程,指出现在中国的每一例死刑都要经过高院的审查,或许能赢得更多的赞同吧,毕竟这一近期的举措使得死刑率大幅下降。

Written by malcolmmoore

December 30, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,