The Times Online is reporting that Akmal Shaikh will be executed tomorrow morning, Tuesday, December 29 at 10:30 AM local time (9:30 pm, Monday, EST). Mr. Shaikh will be executed in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. After being held for more than 2 years without any family contact, Chinese authorities allowed two of Mr. Shaikh’s cousins to visit him in his hospital room. A group from the British Consulate has also paid a visit to Mr. Shaikh. High level discussions between the British and Chinese governments are continuing, with the British government requesting clemency or at the very least expert testimony regarding Mr. Shaikh’s mental illness.
While the Chinese government has maintained that the case was handled according to law, no expert evidence was permitted to be submitted regarding Mr. Shaikh’s mental state. Instead, the lay opinion of judges was used to determine that Mr. Shaikh suffered from no mental illness.
If the Chinese government really wants the rest of the world to respect its courts and not view them as mere kangaroo courts, they themselves have to first respect their own laws, something that was absent in Mr. Shaikh’s case and other criminal cases involving mental illness. The Chinese Criminal Law offers protections to the mentally ill. But without procedures in place to examine a defendant’s mental state by professionals, these laws are conveniently rendered meaningless.
Protection of the mentally ill would not just be helpful to Mr. Shaikh, but would also prove beneficial to the multitude of mentally ill Chinese defendants that interact daily with China’s criminal justice system. While the Chinese press and the Chinese government seems to think that Mr. Shaikh’s execution will be a victory for rule of law in China and a repudiation of the extra-territoriality that existed in China in the late 1800s, in reality it will prove to be a lost opportunity for the Chinese people.