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Can they save the British man sentenced to death in China

UK government, media and families of a Briton sentenced to death in China are making their last effort to save his life, with only 24 hours left before his execution.

Akmal Shaikh was arrested for carrying 5-kg heroin in Xinjiang Airport. Under China’s zero-tolerance drug policy, he was sentenced to death months later.

His finally appeal was rejected and his execution will take place on 29 December 2009.

His families and some UK officials have flown to Urumqi on 27 December to visit Akmal, and will make a last plea for clemency from the Chinese government.

UK prime minister Gordon Brown has also written to Chinese officials including President Hu Jintao asking China to spare the British man’s life.

Chinese media Vs. British media

Almost all UK media report this story these few days, including BBC, Channel 4, Itv, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, you name it.

Akmal was on the frontpage of newspaper or in the headlines of TV and radio programmes. The only competitor was the failed terrorist attack on a US plane by a Nigerian man.

On the contrary, the Chinese media kept silent about this story. Not a single word on the mainstream media.

This is quite different from over two months ago when Akmal making his second appeal to China’s Supreme Court.

A journalist back in China confirmed to me that no written notices from the central government were given, but there was an oral instruction, telling them to follow the Foreign Ministry. As the foreign ministry says nothing so far, there is no reporting at all.

Kill or not kill

The journalist also said that he didn’t believe the Englishman would be actually executed.

He said that the Chinese government “banned” reporting of this story was a proof. The government would let him go, but wanted to save face at the same time.

We don’t know if Akmal will be killed or not.

In China, shooting in the head is a normal execution method. If Akmal is indeed executed, I don’t believe this method will be used. Electric chair or injection seems to be more appropriate.

Kill or not kill, China is now facing a difficult choice.

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