BEIJING: China has upheld the independence and integrity of its justice system, as would any other country, in the trial and execution of British drug smuggler Akmal Shaikh, say legal experts, refuting criticisms of China's human rights record and lack of clemency.
Shaikh, a 53-year-old British man, was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
He had been convicted of carrying up to 4,030 grams of heroin at Urumqi International Airport from Dushanbe, capital of Tajikstan, on September 12, 2007.
China's Criminal Law stipulates that the trafficking of more than 50 grams of heroin is punishable by death.
"According to China's Criminal Law, the death sentence given to him is legitimate and it has nothing to do with human rights concerns," said Wang Mingliang, professor of criminal law at Shanghai-based Fudan University.
"Some Western countries also retain capital punishment, and its existence does not equate to a lack of human rights," Wang said.
Xue Jinzhan, professor of criminal law at the East China University of Political Science and Law, also in Shanghai, said the administration of the death penalty related to a country's history, culture and other conditions.
China strictly enforced the law without discrimination in handling the case, Chinese legal experts told Xinhua.
"It's human nature to plead for a criminal who is from the same country or the same family, but judicial independence should be fully respected and everyone should be equal before the law," Xue said.
Wang said it could be understood that British media ran emotional stories and local people reacted with sorrow or anger as Britain did not retain the death penalty.
"But one country should respect judicial independence of another country, without any interference in internal affairs," Wang said.
"Shaikh's case serves as a testimony to China's judicial justice, which deserves full respect from other countries."
Western reports said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned Shaikh's execution in a statement issued on Tuesday and that Brown had even personally spoken to a senior Chinese leader about the case.
"It would have interfered with China's judicial authority if the senior leader had accepted Brown's request. How could a criminal be exempted from the death penalty only because he was British?" Wang said.
Experts said courts in China had the right to decide whether a psychiatric assessment was necessary.
"The court, based on available evidence, decided not to do the assessment, and it was strictly in line with the law," Wang said.
China's Supreme People's Court on Tuesday issued a statement, saying it had reviewed and approved the death sentence against Akmal Shaikh and there was no reason to cast doubt on Shaikh's mental state.
According to the court, the British embassy in China and a British organization had proposed a psychiatric examination on Shaikh, but the documents they provided could not prove he had mental disorder nor did members of his family have history of mental illness.
Shaikh himself had not provided materials regarding a mental illness. His legal rights and legitimate treatment had been fully granted in custody and trial, the statement said.
Shaikh was sentenced to death in the first instance by the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi on October 29, 2008, and his final verdict came in October this year after two failed appeals.
Drug-related crimes had been recognized as serious criminal offences in most countries of the world, and China demanded severe punishment for such crimes, the statement said.
In June, eight people convicted of drug production and trafficking were executed in China. Another two men convicted of heading a gang that smuggled drugs from Myanmar into China were executed in May.
Courts across China handled 14,282 drug-related cases from January to May, up 12 percent over the same period last year. In these cases, 6,379 people were convicted and received severe penalties ranging from five years in jail to a death sentence.