Public Execution

3 May


The Chinese state and its people remain supportive of capital punishment. However the in-depth and somewhat ostentatious live coverage of a Myanmar drug lord and his 3 accomplices being executed has received heavy criticism. The prosecuted were found guilty of the murder of 13 Chinese fishermen after hijacking their two cargo boats located on the Mekong River in Northern Thailand in 2011. The region is extremely dangerous and known for drug trafficking. All those captured and trailed were foreign nationals, the leader Naw Kham was an infamous Burmese drug lord. The others were of Thai and Lao origin and one was identified as stateless. “It was the first time that Chinese police were conducting a manhunt for criminals who were all foreigners based overseas,” reported Global Times. This has highlighted some implications for China’s integration into the world system, as internal affairs increasingly involve other countries. China promoted this recent trail as a unified objective to gain ‘justice’. However psychologists in China have criticised the broadcast stating that the two hours of coverage was unnecessarily excessive and distressing for many, especially children. Further outrage has been sparked across the globe by the coverage as human rights activists and lawyers call into question the judicial system in China.

The Guardian cartographic map shown below illustrates which countries continue to carry out the death penalty. The exact number for China remains unknown as Beijing keeps this information secret, but research and more open media coverage suggest the number of executions in 2011 reached the thousands.


Source of Statistics: Amnesty International (must consider bias of data source, international charity on human rights).

Whether individuals agree with the death penalty or ‘punishment to fit the crime’, this most recent high profile exposure of the Chinese political and judicial systems has brought the global spotlight on the contentious issues of human rights in the country.



3 Responses to “Public Execution”

  1. rh25g10 May 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    Chinese society has been much divided over the public broadcasting of the public execution of Burmese gang leader Naw Kahm, and accomplices whom were convicted of the murder of 13 Chinese sailors. The public broadcasting or parade was shown on China Central Television (CCTV) for 2 hours. The broadcast showed black clad police officers remove Naw Kahm from his prison cell in ropes and chains, place him on a bus that transported him to the execution site where he was interviewed by CCTV and was reported to state “I haven’t been able to sleep for two days. I have been thinking too much. I miss my mum. I don’t want my children to be like me”. Such occurrence followed in a similar fashion for his three accomplices – all 4 were killed via lethal off camera.

    Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing stated “I think [the broadcast] is compatible with what the government wants– to show the Chinese people that the government is serious about protecting them within the country and outside”. This was certainly shown via the emphasis CCTV placed upon the fact China was displaying the “confidence and determination to safeguard national judicial sovereignty and national interests”. However the broadcast was met with mixed reactions, particularly on Sina Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter); and a fierce debate raged on whether such a public airing was justified and should have occurred. Some praised the government for their hard line tactics, whilst others claimed such a public broadcast was unnecessary and cruel.

    Although public execution were formally banned in 1979 – where before they would occur in places as public as stadiums – they were a common occurrence until the early-to-mid 1990’s. What this public broadcasting (albeit not of the deaths, but of the lead up to all 4 convicted persons deaths) shows is that the Chinese Rule of Law is weak, and does little to hold its own within Chinese society. If when implementing punishment of law breaking – i.e. capital punishment for the murder of 13 Chinese sailors- the punishment does not hold up with the Law itself, how can Law have an authoritarian position within society? And without a Rule of Law within China, what strength does the legal system really have?

    China divided on the TV ‘execution parade’; Judicial resolve or crude voyeurism. Source:

    In Broadcasting Lead-Up Execution, China Ignores Rule of Law: Source:

  2. aa29g11 May 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    I do agree with you about the implications of allowing the Chinese public and rest of the world to witness these violations of Universal Human Rights, as defined the the United Nations. Not only was it graphic in its portrayal of the moments prior to the victims death, but it also sends a message to those who want to try and challenge the judicial integrity of the Chinese Government, whether they be domestic or international. Many argue for both sides of the argument, whether to accept the human rights legislation already implemented into Chinese society, or try and overturn the already established judicial system. Some described the process as a triumph of judicial resolve, whereas others saw it as a return to the Maoist era of societal control.

    Its time for the International bodies for human rights to intervene and try and convince the Chinese government to reform their human rights agenda. Although this may seem utopian in its optimism, there is good reason for its change as the lack of respect for human rights violations will lead to uprising and protests from the Chinese people. Whether the government wants to risk losing the respect of their own people is their own prerogative, but for the sake of its own people the move to change will prove necessary in the long-run.

  3. cjf3g11 May 13, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Commentators for the state television network remarked, “From the appearance of these criminals, you can clearly tell our prison has carried out humanitarian spirit. These criminals clearly look healthier … with better skin complexion than when they were arrested.” However, can this ‘humanitarian spirit’ really justify the live coverage of their public executions?
    The coverage did not show the actual injections, but it did include live images of the prisoners’ just minutes before their death. This resulted in heavy criticism from human rights advocates. Prominent blogger lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan wrote, “This carnival on CCTV was a violation not only of ethics, but of the criminal code regulations that the death penalty not be carried out in public.”
    The fact that a Reuters investigation in early 2012 cast doubt on the allegations and raised the possibility that a nine-man anti-narcotics unit within the Thai military was responsible for the massacre, demonstrate the breaching of human rights. Furthermore, there have been cases of innocent people being executed in China. Defendants who face the death penalty are often denied their rights. For example; another case involved a migrant worker who killed four people but the ruling on his appeal was done by the same judge who made the initial ruling.
    “Execution is one of the indispensable means of education,” China’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, once said. – However, despite this, studies conducted actually indicate that capital punishment actually does little to deter crime. Therefore the result of psychological stress to the public and the uproar in the international human rights scene was actually all done in vain.

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