In a statement released through the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Gordon Brown stated: “….I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms, and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted….” AND: “.I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken….”
This saga had been going on since 2007. It appears that Mr. Shaikh was a man with significant mental health problems who was easily duped by drug smugglers to transport 8lbs 13ozs of heroin into China having been persuaded that his song tilted “Come Little Rabbit” would be released there and would be a world hit! Those who have heard this song deem it “dreadful”.
Two things are clear from this: the Chinese resented what they saw as foreign interference. The British government was duty bound to make representations on behalf of its citizen. Where the government went wrong in the opinion of the British Gazette was not to concentrate solely on the issue of Mr. Shaikh’s mental state and not on the issue of capital punishment. Let us be clear. There are many countries in the world where the death penalty and other harsh punishments are applied. People travelling to these countries should make themselves aware of this. Indeed, many do. Some of the most adept students are in fact members of the criminal class! As mentioned in our article about Mr. Madoff, U.S. prisons are harsher than British prisons.
It should have been clear to the Foreign Office that China was unlikely to treat a British citizen more leniently than one of their own. Although China is a one party state the Communist party still keeps a weather eye on Chinese opinion. The Chinese public would not have reacted well were the Chinese to exercise a leniency denied to their own. Clearly then, the Foreign Office should have concentrated on one aspect alone. Getting the Chinese authorities to undertake a professional independent psychiatric examination of Mr. Shaikh – not with the object of seeking to persuade the Chinese into giving a more lenient sentence but to challenge the question on Mr. Shaikh’s guilt or innocence. Particular attention should have been applied to ensure that the Chinese could do this without any loss of face.