Britain is outraged. Akmal Shaikh’s family is outraged. I’m joining the outrage.
On Tuesday, the Briton Akmal Shaikh was put to death in China for smuggling 8.8 pounds of heroin in a flight from Tajikistan to Xinjiang last year. He didn’t kill anyone, he didn’t threaten to destabilise the Chinese government, he wasn’t out in the streets defaming Mao – he just tried to rope in a whole lot of cash for a whole lot of dope.
Dope. Illegal powder. Powder that, when caught in doses of more than 50 grams at one time, is grounds for the death penalty in China for the person carrying it.
I’m not denying that Shaikh didn’t know the rules or that he didn’t, in fact, break them (he obviously did). I’m more concerned that this rule exists in the first place.
How does China justify killing someone over drug smuggling? My brain just doesn’t register the logic. For killing another human being – yes. Or for terrorist plots against a nation – check. But selling some white stuff that will get you high? Nope. I don’t get it. It’s yet one more area where China has a long way to go in terms of human rights.
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I remember when I was in junior high and heard a rumor about a country somewhere that cut people’s hands off for stealing (part of Shariah Islamic law, incidentally). I was horrified, but somewhere deep inside, I decided that while it was awfully harsh, the crime there must at least be strictly minimized.
While now that I’m all grown up i do see flaws in that plan, it’s true that the punishment, if nothing else, fits the crime. There are reasons why parts of Islamic law say it is necessary to cut off one’s hands for stealing – it prevents the thief from ever stealing again, keeping all the rest of us safe. Yes, it is inhumane, but it somehow makes sense.
China’s law of the death penalty over drug smuggling doesn’t. If we apply a tit for tat policy, Akmal Shaikh should have been forced to smoke up a massive amount of that heroin for a month, then quit cold turkey. Is this inhumane? Maybe. But at least it applies some kind of reasoning. Killing him outright goes from A to Z without addressing the missing letters.
In truth, I’m against the inhumane treatment of anyone, including the world’s most serious offenders. In my world, I wouldn’t instate the death penalty at all. Prisons would still exist, but they’d be centers of reform with teams of psychiatrists working around the clock to ensure that criminals would be out in a few years and back to leading a normal, socially-acceptable life.
Unfortunately, until I become president, our current world governments will have to figure out other ways of keeping each other safe within the established infrastructures while maintaining some essence of human rights. Ordering an execution for a little white powder – or even a lot – isn’t getting us, as a people, anywhere.