The four foreign criminals who murdered 13 Chinese sailors in 2011 on northern Thailand’s Mekong River were put to death by lethal injection on March 1.
I support the death sentence in this case and the execution of these men. The significance of this execution is three-fold. First, whoever commits a crime, whether foreign, stateless, or Chinese, which injures the Chinese state or its citizens, will be prosecuted. Second, as an independent sovereign state China has the right to to exercize judicial sovereignty over foreigners. Third, all people who violate China’s Criminal Law will be held accountable for their criminal actions equally.
For a long time, neighboring countries and regions took advantage of the vulnerability of China’s remote regions and borders. They also preyed on Chinese citizens, falsely believing that they wouldn’t be held accountable for their criminal actions. This is the case of Burmese drug lord Naw Kham and his three acolytes. Their executions serve as a deterrent for those wanting to victimize Chinese citizens, and this is the best way to protect our borders.
The case was covered extensively by the Chinese state media, including the details on how the four criminals were treated in the days leading to their execution.
Forty-eight hours before their deaths, state media reported the exact hour of the execution. In the last 24 hours of their lives the prison provided them with doctors, food, medicine, and even psychological services. The inmates were also able to see consular officials from their home countries and to attend a religious ceremony.
According to Zhao Bin, from the Yunnan Public Security Bureau pointed out, since China’s Supreme Court approved these men’s death penalty, the court has been particularly attentive to safeguarding their human rights.
I couldn’t help but wonder, after reading about this, why don’t Chinese death row inmates get the same treatment?
“Last words of a dying man”
According to my years of observation of China’s judicial system, Chinese death row inmates learn about their execution date only eight hours prior to their execution. The inmates’ have no human rights protection and their families are rarely kept in the loop. Case in point: Wen Qiang, the former head of public security of Chongqing City who was convicted of corruption and organized crime and executed in 2010. During their last meeting, his family was not told he was about to be put to death. They only found out about it through media.
“The last song of a dying bird is sad, the last words of a dying man are noteworthy,” says a Confucian proverb. One is most sincere and kind-hearted when one knows death is coming. This is why since ancient times, there has always been a tradition of humane care for the dying and why in many countries the law attaches particularly importance to protecting the human rights of death row inmates.
Protecting their human rights isn’t just about respecting and safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of prisoners, but is also about protecting their families’ rights. This is also an important act of education and love that benefits our entire society. History tells us that a country’s law and order is not determined by the severity of its legal system but society’s human qualities, good morals and public order.
Protecting the inmates’ basic human rights helps us elevate the standard of society and is one of the best ways of improving social order.
If the Chinese judicial system can be good to a ruthless criminal such as Naw Kham and can respect his basic rights why can’t they do the same for all other Chinese inmates? Since all people are equal before the law, I hope that Chinese judicial system will use the treatment of Naw Kham and acolytes as a model to improve the treatment of Chinese death row inmates. This will go a long way to improving the protection of human rights in China.