We must all plead for the life of Akmal Shaikh

December 23, 2009 at 7:38 pm (anonymous, China, Human rights, mental health)

“We are begging the Chinese authorities to show compassion…and mercy. Basically I’m here begging for his life to be spared” – Akbar Shaikh, brother of Akmal Shaikh.

A mentally ill man who first showed signs of probable bipolar disorder in 2001 when his marriage broke up and he moved from Britain to Poland, faces execution in China on 29 December.

His family have remained silent until now, in order not to antagonise the Chinese authorities. But Akmal Shaikh lost his appeal on Monday and now the family reckon the only hope lies with a last-minute public campaign.

What seems to have happened is that Polish drug traffickers identified Mr Shaikh as a vulnerable and gullible character who could be easily tricked into unwittingly carrying drugs into China. How they did this is heartbreaking: they told the delusional Mr Shaikh that a song he had written and believed could bring about world peace, ‘Come Little Rabbit’, would be recorded in China and turn Mr Shaikh into an international pop star, as well as ushering in world peace.

When Mr Shaikh arrived at the airport, expecting to be accompanied by his record-production team, a member of the gang gave him a briefcase, saying that there was only one seat available on the plane and that he should fly to China alone, and they would join him later.

He was arrested in September 2007, as he arrived in China.

China has signed the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which states: “Anyone sentenced to death penalty shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence.” Nevertheless, the Chinese court has not even carried out an examination of Mr Shaikh’s mental health.

The human rights organisation, Reprieve (which is best known for campaigning on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees) is co-ordinating the campaign to save Mr Shaikh. They emphasise that provocative comments about China would be entirely counterproductive – especially in the aftermath of Copenhagen.

They ask people to contact Gordon Brown (who has issued a statement urging clemency) and the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Madam Fu Ying, using the text below:

Dear Prime Minister Bown / Ambassador Fu Ying,

I write to express my deep concern for Akmal Shaikh, who faces execution in China on December 29.

Akmal’s family has pleaded for his life to be spared, and my heart is with them at this terrible time. Akmal’s death, particularly during the holiday season, would destroy his children, his brother and his elderly mother, and tear the family apart.

I know the Chinese people care deeply about family and I would join Akmal’s  children in begging for mercy for their father.

This unusual case is not about politics, but about humanity and compassion – values we share with the Chinese people. My plea to the Chinese authorities is based upon the greatest respect for Chinese culture and these shared values.

Yours sincerely…

Email your letter to the Prime Minister here, and to the Chinese Ambassador at secretary@chinese-embassy.org.uk

 Akmal Shaik’s song for world peace, ‘Come Little Rabbit’, can be seen and heard on Youtube but for some reason I have been unable to link to it here.


  1. Dave said,

    Funny, no coverage of this case yet on Britain’s main leftist pro-China website …

  2. ez said,

    170 years ago, the British sold opium to China.
    Now they are sending heroin to China!
    Do they think the China is the same country as 170 years ago?
    I’m feeling so sorry to him that he was born too late, 170 years late!
    At that time, he can be free to do anything including drug smuggling, killing and robbery in China, but not now!
    We have had Opium War, we don’t mind to have a Heroin War. There is no need to say anything, just send your troop and come again!

  3. Max Dunbar said,


    If you can stomach it, this is what Andy is saying about China.


    This is a gushing review of another pro-regime book, by someone called Jenny Clegg.


    ‘The major fault lines of China’s society’s fast growth pattern are therefore the weakness of the agricultural sector, the problems of local government capacity (including corruption); an over rapid pace of urbanisation; and the lack of a social safety net. It is not surprising therefore to find a big increase in social protest, especially over abuses of state power: excessive local taxes, land seizures, forced relocations and environmental concerns. However, despite seeming wishful thinking from China’s critics of both left and right, these protests are not part of a challenge to the system itself, but are merely seeking redress within the confines of the existing system.’

    What an absolute fucking fraud Andy Newman is.

    He does have one criticism of Clegg though: that ‘a lifetime of immersion in pro-Chinese politics does sometimes render her prose style a bit like a Beijing press release.’

    Hello, Mr Kettle.

  4. Mr. D said,

    To show China is on the way to democracy, the only clemency China can show to Mr. Shaikh is the following choice:

    1. firing squd
    2. lethal injection
    3. hanging (follow the tradition in UK)

    Which drug trafficker is mentally sound when get caught? All such criminals are mentally handicapped in the first place. I think Chinese people are not bad enough to let him walk away like nothing happened, and continue to poison your kids in your country.

  5. Fair said,

    Should Mr Shaikh’s trial follow British laws or Chinese laws? Or follow any laws at all?

    Does a mentally ill person, who has been capable of marrying, raising kids, operating a personal business, travelling around the world by himself, have the slightest idea that drug trafficking (4 kg!) is a grave crime in any countries (not sure about in UK)?

  6. voltairespriest said,

    Frankly I think it’s unbelievable that anyone would advocate the death penalty for anything: it goes against any kind of principle of modern justice as far as I’m concerned.

    If the guy is deemed capable (a mental health condition does not necessarily mean that you don’t know what you’re doing), then obviously he should face the full force of the law. But not of savage “eye for an eye” mob law. He should have a fair trial and if found guilty, a reasonable sentence.

  7. Mr. D said,


    Law is law, and law reform is another matter. I didn’t promote death penalty , just talked about this heroin smuggler’s possible choices in China. The bottom line is that Chinese law, unlike that of UK, has ZERO TOLERANCE for drug smugglers — criminals regardless nationality get death punishment for over 50 gram of heroin smuggling here. Do you really think Chinese law should be changed simply because he is British, not Chinese?

    Mr. D

  8. voltairespriest said,

    No, I’m saying that I disagree with the death penalty whether it’s imposed in China, the UK or anywhere else.

  9. bn15 said,

    I just see this whole thing as karma finally biting Britain in its butt for the opium war. That whole affair is pretty much the entire reason why China is so harsh on drug trafficking. As a Chinese-American, I am quite sure that the people of China would feel a great sense of injustice if Akmal Shaikh was given any sort of clemency.

  10. voltairespriest said,

    Akmal Sheikh didn’t actually run the Opium War though, did he? I’m pretty sure his ancestors didn’t either.

    Anyhow, that really isn’t a rationale with which to work out how to prosecute a contemporary drugs case.

  11. Mr. D said,

    Good for China. This criminal was duly executed according to Chinese law, and hundreds youngsters’ lives saved in China. Hope there won’t be many more drug traffickers smuggling heroin to China at their own peril.

  12. voltairespriest said,

    By the… err… benevolent Chinese state which has never needlessly killed a citizen, of course.

    Applauding a state-sanctioned judicial murder… I don’t think so.

  13. maxdunbar said,

    Mr D – fuck off, please.

  14. Red Maria said,

    @ Fair. The late Akmal Shaikh had serious delusions: he announced that he was going to launch an airline and so saying went to Poland where he ended up as a down and out. Then he believed that he was going to be a pop superstar and that his first record would usher in world peace. When his passport was stolen by the criminal gangsters who took him to China he wasn’t particularly concerned; he thought he’d be recognised by border guards the world over.
    By any stretch of the imagination, Shaikh was bonkers. Yet the Chinese authorities refused to allow him to have an independent psychiatric assessment.

    @bn15 my aunt and cousins are Chinese American too. I’ll ask them, as Chinese Americans, what insights they have into the collective mind of the people of China.

    @Max to me the fact that poor Akmal Shaikh was executed by lethal injection adds to the horror of it all. This morning the news bulletins were describing his execution as being by shooting. Both methods are, of course, atrocious but lethal injection seems to me a nightmarish means of execution. At least death by shooting is instantaneous.

    This is by no means the first time a mentally-ill, or incapable person has been put to death by the state. On January 8th 1999 the state of Louisiana finally executed Dobie Williams for the murder of Sonja Knippers. Williams, who had an IQ of 65 had been given eleven execution dates since 1985.

    A few years ago, I interviewed Sister Helen Prejean, the anti-death penalty campaigner and subject of the film Dead Man Walking about her book The Death of Innocents for Tribune. Sister Helen, by the way, is a journalist’s dream interviewee. She volunteers information, holds the tape recorder herself while you are scribbling down her answers in your notebook. Anyway, I vividly remember her telling me that it was Dobie Williams’ case which most shocked her. There’s an extract from Death of Innocents here

    Remember also the case of Ricky Ray Rector, the self-lobotomised man who was sacrificed on the altar of Bill Clinton’s presidential ambitions in January 1992. Rector couldn’t comprehend his death sentence: when prison guards entered his cell to take him to the execution chamber he told them he was saving his pecan pie “for later”. The story is brilliantly recounted in Christopher Hitchens’ book, No one left to lie to.

  15. maxdunbar said,


    I really don’t see the point in arguing with apologists for the death penalty and/or for the China regime. If there was ever a case for simply deleting comments and banning commenters, this thread is it.

  16. Mr. D said,

    Did you guys plead for Saddam Hussein’s life? Many jump up and down for the simple reason that the criminal was British(suddenly found bi-polar after being caught!) and executed by justice in China (3 cheers for China).

    Come to read Chinese forums(yes, sensitive stuff are filtered sometimes, we hate that, but not for this case! ) and listen to Chinese family’s voices before you whine like politicians, 50 g is the threshhold for death here and he carried 4+ kg to China!

    Now cannot do it anymore , but we are told in a barbaric logic that thus convicted criminal is the real victim. Family with real victims of drug dealers/smugglers, those young dying drug addicts, have more right to say in this case. Please wake up to new world, you may not like death penalty, but show some respect to another country’s law( how laughable to know that a life sentence mean 7-8 years in prison in the UK, introduce Chinese law and save British kids!). It is not the barbaric British colony past anymore, don’t you try to give more pretexts for sending British gunships as you have done for Iragis and people in other countries. Is that what they are doing? State-sanctioned/people-supported killing in Iraq. Hypocrites!

    for this particular case, JUSTICE WAS DONE!

  17. Voltaire's Priest said,

    What are you on about? This site doesn’t have a “line” on Iraq, we’re not a political party. Jim and I certainly both opposed the invasion, I have no idea what Max and Rosie think about the matter.

    The bottom line is, if you get off on macho “justice” then that is your issue. I don’t. The fact that the killer is the Chinese state rather than the US or British one, makes no odds as far as I’m concerned.

  18. maxdunbar said,

    On the issue of Saddam, I would have preferred an international war crimes tribunal, followed by life without parole.

    I couldn’t give a fuck about Saddam’s death, but I think life imprisonment would have been a greater punishment than the swift execution he got. The fact is that the death penalty is actually too lenient in these cases – one prick of the needle and it’s all over. No wonder Milosevic killed himself.

    I think the death penalty is wrong in every case, and that people who argue for it in the case of nonviolent offences like drug smuggling and theft are simply advocates for dictatorship and totalitarianism.

  19. Mr. D said,

    Maxdunbar, first, befire I forgot again, would you please grow up and save your “fuck” words when hearing opinions which upset you?
    Death punishment is part of Chinese law for now, what is the reason for a Brit citizen to be above it when it is the same law for the Chinese, too. I am surprised you guys are so ungrateful for the riddance.
    Also, It seems you have double standards for the British drug smuggler(“nonviolent offence”) and Saddam Hussain’s death (the latter you hope to die in a real slow and miserable manner, wow. not so humantarian, huh?). BTW. I am not for dictatorship, but I definitely hate to see China follow some western “human rights” crap and become another UK in coping with drug smugglers.

  20. maxdunbar said,

    Mr D

    I’m an admin on this blog – I’ll swear on it if I like.

    I’m thinking of that Malcolm Tucker line: ‘Oh yeah, I forgot you didn’t like swearing, I’m sorry – eff – star – star – CUNT.’

    No one here’s disputing the fact that the Chinese have the death penalty – we’re questioning the death penalty itself.

    Do you really not see the difference between a mentally ill drug trafficker and a brutal, murderous ruler of a one party state.

    Oh yeah – in the UK we have prison sentences for drug smugglers. Explain why that isn’t enough.

  21. Red Maria said,

    Mr D, you do know that the PRC has the death penalty for tax evasion, don’t you? Hardly surprising that it is the world leader in the use of the death penalty, then.

    Just out of interest, how far do you take this patriotism thing and why? Take the PRC’s government, for example, the actions of which you vigorously defend, though it’s unclear whether you do so because you think the actions in Akmal Shaikh’s case were reasonable or that you support any of the PRC government’s actions, no matter what they are.

    If it is the latter, one wonders why you do so. The government of the PRC is unelected; it doesn’t represent the people of China at all.

    • ez said,

      At least it does represent the people of China on this case!!!

  22. Mr. D said,

    If tax evasion is punished that way, it is the law to be reformed, that is another matter. But fortunately, as far as I know, it is more like a joke you guys are spreading about China. About the Brit heroin smuggler’s case, I think it is the legal (fair and reasonable) action taken to protect Chinese kids from being poisoned for now, and there is indeed a change in law procedure, death penalty is now handled with much more care(with supreme court’s recheck and approval, instead of provincial approval) in China.

    As to “in the UK we have prison sentences for drug smugglers. Explain why that isn’t enough”.

    The answer is: TOO SOFT, your streets will be packed with drugs, and more of your kids will be killed– I bet some of you may already worry about this, and in the end you either take a hard stance (learn from PRC) or claim that use of such drugs is human nature and legalize it(then everybody uses it) the society will be like China around Opium War times (BTW, the UK did something really brilliant in introducing and exporting Opium by state-sanctioned force to China in early 19th century, as a result China lost Hong Kong for 99 years, and it is a mockery you are still questioning our legal measures in this British drug smuggler’s case). Heroin is family misery, you tolerate producers, dealers, smugglers, we all suffer.

  23. Mr. D said,

    Red Maria, only idiots support ANY government actions, please try to understand we Chinese people, with a long history of civilization and a fairly long history of (unpleasante or pleasant) interaction with British people, have heads (and balls, too).

  24. maxdunbar said,

    Perhaps if we abolished elections, tortured our dissidents and set up labour camps then our streets would be safer.

  25. Mr. D said,

    Ha, maybe it is a choice, but once Britain empire is resumed, you might be sent to Australia for indecent blogging language. so the better choice is probably to live it as is.

  26. Red Maria said,

    Mr D being Irish I understand what you mean when you refer to China’s complex history with Britain. But let’s for the moment put colonialism behind us. Any state would plead for the life of one of its citizens if sentenced to death overseas.

    I am also sympathetic to your argument about drugs. I’m not persuaded by arguments for drug decriminalisation or legalisation. I don’t think that drugs are harm free. In the past week I’ve been talking to a friend of mine who’s developed a £400 a week cocaine habit. She refuses to admit she has a problem and resists my suggestions that she should give the drug up totally, completely and forever. I agree with you that drugs are poison and that the authorities should take a tough line on their supply and use.

    That said, I don’t think such a tough line necessitates the use of the death penalty and certainly not for mentally-ill individuals.

    There is a via media between what you perceive as the disorderliness of the West and the extreme authoritarianism of the PRC.

    I refer, of course, to the Swedish approach. Read about it here.

  27. Mr. D said,

    If you also “must all plead” for Saddam’s life, I would believe in your sincerity in opposing death penalty. It is of course understandable for British government to have asked for clemency in this case, as in any such drug cases in East Asia (in the past the British Empire did not ask for clemency, they order and invade to make their way, how happy we see that is the horrible PAST), but making it such a clownish political show and trying to play the humantarian card is foolish if not naiive, all people in the world hate drug smugglers except drug smugglers themselves. We know how your government deal with legal cases with USA, quite different and flexible indeed, how interesting.

    Who does not know mental illness is the old trick after getting caught? That criminal was also said to be mentally ill only AFTER he was caught. That is why nobody could provided a REAL PROOF of his mental disorder (previous treatment record, even poor Chinese people have such medical records if they have the money to see a doctor once). also, please tell me who cannot fake mentally ill in an assessment, esp. when a crime is commited?

    Chinese Law says it loud and clear: One smuggles heroin, if over 50 kg and get caught, one dies. Sounds cruel? maybe, but I think it is even more cruel to know a heroin smuggler succeeds.

  28. Mr. D said,

    i mean: One smuggles heroin, if over 50 g and get caught, one dies.

  29. maxdunbar said,

    Except he first showed signs of bipolar in 2001.

    • ez said,

      If he can take care himself then his family and his country should take care him, not let him hang out by himself. However, they did nothing.
      So, it’s not China, it’s his family and British government killed him.

      • Mr. D said,

        ES, I think maxdunbar referred to Saddam Hussain’s hanging case.

  30. Red Maria said,

    Good point, Max

    Mr D, what do you think about Sweden’s drugs policy?

  31. Mr. D said,

    Max point is a typical hypocrite’s- make a difference in pleading for life when one is against death penalty.
    Red Maria, I have not read through Sweden’s policy, but if there is any suggestion of legalization, I am not sure If I like it, because I don’t believe in very liberal solution to this issue- serial murderers can claim killing is his human nature, too. If one don’t believe real clean streets, ask any chinese who are over 45. communists could do it , why can’t your western governments do it? at least your governments apparent regard your countries as democratic, liberal, humantarian, advocating human rights ,guarding for world peace(by invasion of cource), why prove to be more lousy?

    I have to say that the UK can be the the last country to teach other countries how to act in dealing with drug dealers — she herself mongered drugs around the world with guns, and now liberally protect drug dealers by putting her youngsters in poisonous environment, continue to poison our world, and we Asians are forced to clean your mess, too (as in this case). we Chinese lie in poverty, had to feed this British criminal for 2 years until we was executed.

  32. Mr. D said,

    Max point is a typical hypocrite’s- make a difference in pleading for life when one is against death penalty.
    Red Maria, I have not read through Sweden’s policy, but if there is any suggestion of legalization, I am not sure If I like it, because I don’t believe in very liberal solution to this issue- serial murderers can claim killing is his human nature, too. If one doesn’t believe real clean streets, ask any chinese who are over 45. Communists could do it , why can’t your western governments do it? At least your governments apparently regard your countries as democratic, liberal, humantarian, advocating human rights ,guarding for world peace(by invasion of cource), why prove to be more lousy?

    I have to say that the UK can be the the last country to teach other countries how to act in dealing with drug dealers — she herself mongered drugs around the world with guns, and now liberally protects drug dealers by putting her youngsters in poisonous environment, continues to poison our world, and we Asians are forced to clean your mess, too (as in this case). we Chinese, who live in poverty, had to feed this British criminal for 2 years until we was finally executed. Clean your backyard, please.

    (Admin, Please delete the above post, sorry, I wrongly posted it without check)

    • Mr. D said,

      until He was finally…

  33. Fair said,

    Let’s check the history again:

    No more than 200 years ago, British “merchants” invented the great idea of selling opium to China as a means to revert the huge trade deficit with China. When China banned the trade and burned some of the confiscated opium, Britain sent in the Navy and started the opium war with China. Then the 2nd opium war.

    That was in the name of protecting Free Trade (yeah, free trade of drugs to China).

    This time, this drug dealer was caught and jailed by China, and the “Great” Britain launched such a big protest.

    This time, it is in the name of protecting Human Rights (yes, the rights of smuggling drugs!)

    Now the smuggler is executed, will Britain send in their Navy again and start a 3rd Opium war? Well, the barbarian Chinese should feel scared!

    Well, this also makes me wonder, has the “Great” Britain changed at all over the last 200 years?

    BTW, Chinese law says that over 50g of heroin smuggling is automatically a death penalty. Smuggling 4kg deserves 80+ deaths. Even with a 95% discount of his crime considering his alleged mental conditioned (not sufficiently established though), he still deserves more than 1 death!

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