Chinese hit back in row over Briton's execution

The execution of British citizen Akmal Shaikh by China sparked a diplomatic war of words between London and Beijing today.

Convicted drug smuggler Shaikh, who is believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder, was killed by lethal injection despite pleas for his mental health to be considered.



Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who had telephoned Chinese premier Wen Jiabao to urge him to halt the execution, said he was "appalled and disappointed" at the failure to grant clemency.



Chinese officials in both capitals hit back with an insistence that Shaikh had "no previous medical record" of mental illness and a warning not to meddle in China's judicial affairs.



The row culminated tonight in a "difficult" showdown between Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis and China's Ambassador Fu Ying after she was summoned to explain her country's action.



Emerging from the meeting, Mr Lewis said he "made clear that the execution of Mr Shaikh was totally unacceptable and that China had failed in its basic human rights responsibilities".



Shaikh, 53, from Kentish Town, north London, who was arrested in Urumqi, north west China, in September 2007, was convicted of smuggling 4kg (8.8lb) of heroin into the country.



But it is widely believed by his family and supporters that he was seriously mentally ill and was duped into carrying the drugs unknowingly by a gang.



Campaigners said the courts in China failed to commission an assessment of his medical condition in spite of his obvious mental illness, believed to be bipolar disorder.



Some 27 separate representations were made at ministerial level on Shaikh's behalf to the Chinese authorities as intense efforts were made to spare his life.



Shaikh's cousins, Soohail and Nasir Shaikh, travelled to China to visit their cousin in prison but their last-minute plea for clemency also failed.



The family said they were "deeply saddened, stunned and disappointed" by the execution, which mental health campaigners criticised as "medieval rough justice gone badly wrong".



Robert Westhead, a spokesman for MDF, the Bipolar Organisation, said: "The way the Chinese authorities have stubbornly failed to take account of this poor man's severe mental illness shows that China is still stuck in the dark ages."



In a statement issued through the human rights group Reprieve, the two Shaikh brothers attacked as "ludicrous" suggestions that Akmal should have provided evidence of his own condition.



"That this was regarded as sufficient grounds for refusal by the judicial authorities to order any mental health assessment is shocking to us.



"Despite our own and other pleas, the Chinese authorities have maintained their refusal to investigate Akmal's mental health."



Mr Brown said he condemned the execution "in the strongest terms and (I) am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted.



"I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken," he said, expressing his condolences to the family.



Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat spokesman Ed Davey also joined the criticism, with Mr Miliband accusing the Chinese courts of failing to provide adequate professional interpretation during the trial.



Their words caused irritation in Beijing, where Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu expressed "strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the British Government's unreasonable criticism" of the case.



"No-one has the right to comment on China's judicial sovereignty," she told a press briefing.



"It is the common wish of people around the world to strike against the crime of drug trafficking. We urge the British to correct their mistake in order to avoid harming China-UK relations."



Ambassador Fu Ying was summoned to the Foreign Office after the Chinese Embassy in London issued a statement insisting Shaikh's rights and interests had been "properly respected".



"As for his possible mental illness which has been much talked about, there apparently has been no previous medical record," it went on.



The quantity of heroin brought into China was "enough to cause 26,800 deaths, threatening numerous families", it said, concluding: "The legal structures of China and UK may be different, but it should not stand in the way of enhancing our bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect."



After the emergency talks, Mr Lewis, who earlier said the case made him "sick to the stomach", said: "I had a difficult conversation with the Chinese Ambassador today.



"I made clear that the execution of Mr Shaikh was totally unacceptable and that China had failed in its basic human rights responsibilities in this case, in particular that China's court had not considered the representations made about Mr Shaikh's mental condition.



"It is an important element of a mature bilateral relationship that we are able to speak frankly about issues on which we disagree and that those concerns are heard."



Campaigners and family members held a candlelit vigil outside the Chinese embassy in London for the former cab firm manager.



It is believed Shaikh, who was homeless in Poland, was tricked into carrying drugs by a gang in the country who told him he could become a pop star in China.



The execution makes Shaikh the first European to be executed in China for more than 50 years, according to campaigners.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz