Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tuesday 29 December

A cold start after a slight overnight frost, down to -2C. Some rime on the roofs and trees. The sun is making a pallid appearance, as we are under warning for snow. The battle between cold and warm airmasses will take place right overhead, over the Netherlands. In the end, it would appear that the New Year will see the introduction of extremely cold conditions, with overnight lows down to -15C or less (that's around zero Fahrenheit).

I was horrified to learn of the execution of a British man in China, for drug smuggling. Although I agree that drugs are a scourge of modern day society, and China has its own, unfair share of addicts, there are other punishments available other than death.

I disapprove of the death penalty, and on principle will not condone it. If it later turns out that a mistake has been made, there is no chance of reversing the decision. I am aware that many of my readers are from the US, where the death penalty remains on the statute book as an acceptable punishment.

Returning to the case of the executed Briton, he was found in the possession of 4 kg (9 lb) of heroin as he crossed from Tadjikistan into China. He had been handed the case containing the drugs whilst he was en route to China to start a career in pop music. Mr Shaikh is reportedly suffering from delusions, symptomatic of severe mental illness. Nonetheless, the Chinese authorities have proceeded with his execution earlier today.

In the 19th century, almost all the people in China were addicted to opium, an addiction fostered by the British. A war was fought on the issue. The matter is of particular interest to me, because one of the people behind the illicit opium trade into China was Sir James Matheson, owner of the Isle of Lewis at the time. His memorial stands on a prominent position above Stornoway Harbour, as anyone arriving there by ferry will know. The memory of Matheson is tainted with the summary eviction of his tenants in Lewis, with the opium wars in China. And with the death of Akmal Shaikh today.

1 comment:

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I don't approve of the death penalty either. Drugs are the cause of much of our crime today. Many things are done that wouldn't be if there were no drugs. It's cold here too, below freezing but not below zero. Winter has a long ways to go yet and I'm dreaming of sunshine and warmth.