Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 09:49:58 AM EST
The BBC is now reporting that China has proceeded with the execution of Akmal Shaikh, a mentally-ill father-of-three from London, on charges of drug traffiking.
Shaikh was discovered with 4kg of heroin in his luggage attempting to enter the country. 50 grams is enough to invoke the possibility of the death penalty under Chinese law. His defenders claim that he is mentally ill, and his daughter has said that her father, whose decision-making capability was in question, was used as an unwitting mule by Polish smugglers who promised to make him a pop star in China.
The British government had lobbied for clemency, hoping for a Presidential pardon at the last minute. However, the Chinese government claimed that separation of powers meant it would be improper for the Government to interfere in a judicial decision.
There are mixed reports, but it seems likely that Shaikh was killed either by lethal injection or by firing squad
What this says about global diplomacy and the future of the EU is below the fold...
frontpaged by Jérôme
I have made my views on British Foreign Secretary very clear on Daily Kos - I do not think that we could have a worse man in the role than David Miliband, who has induced the wrath of the Indian PM, the Russian FM, and the scorn of the Iranians and the Chinese. In this instance, the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office - the UK's equivalent to the Department of State) hoped it had sufficient influence in China to get a commutation of the sentence. They were wrong.
One interesting aside from this affair is that the BBC is reporting that
Mr Shaikh is the first EU national to be executed in China in more than 50 years
Ignoring for a moment the anachronism (there was no EU 50 years ago), it is curious that the BBC should describe Shaikh as an EU national - rather than a national of an EU member state - which implies that the EU is a nation state.
To my mind, this would have been the best way to secure Shaikh's commutation. I have been hyper-critical of the EU for its lack of accountability and democracy (and I stand by those criticisms), but I remain pro-Europe, and since the passage of the Lisbon Treaty I have tried to embrace the entity that will (and perhaps already does in part) constitute my identity as a citizen.
The EU is only just beginning its foray into international diplimacy with any confidence - since Lisbon was ratified, the EU now has a centralised position representing the Union in Foreign and Security Policy. The choice for inaugural office-holder (whom I tipped at odds of 50-1) was Baroness Cathy Ashton, a Briton, who will take up her role formally on January 1st, 2010.
What the EU lacks in internal coherence (by the standards of the US, India, or China) it makes up for in weight. With 500 million first world consumers, the EU is a global giant in terms of trade and regulation. It carries weight with the major emerging markets in a way that no single European country can.
This sickening episode marks for me precisely the sort of incident where the EU should wield its muscle. Europeans are overwhelmingly opposed to the death penalty (and would have a clear majority in most countries, perhaps excepting the UK), and even more so if conducted by non-European legal systems (such as China or the United States).
The Death Penalty is an issue on which Europeans are generally united, and on which the EU could strike a clear diplomatic line that would be neutral in terms of reference to the other main power blocs (ie, not a statement of siding with the US or with China). If Europe is to have a foreign policy, it should begin with a refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the death penalty, and should institute as a matter of policy that the EU will not tolerate the execution of any of its citizens by any state without consequences.
Giving Europeans a sense of European (rather than national) citizenship and using economic muscle to bear against Capital Punishment are twin benefits - both in demonstrating to the world that there is a new major player on the diplomatic scene, but also in fostering a new sense of collective citizenship within the EU: a 'Civis Romanus Sum' for the 21st century.
What happened tonight was sickening, but predictable. If we are to learn a lesson it is that a more powerful institution than the British government will be needed to negotiate with the Chinese, and that for all its many faults, the EU is perhaps best placed to be that institution.