Britain blasted as 'powerless'

2009-12-30 12:26

London - Relatives of a Briton executed in China accused Britain on Wednesday of being diplomatically powerless due to its economic dependence on the Asian giant, after Beijing ignored London's clemency appeals.

Two cousins of Akmal Shaikh, who travelled to China in a last-ditch attempt to save the 53-year-old's life, also accused the West of double standards for citing human rights abuses to justify its invasions of countries such as Afghanistan but failing to take the same approach towards Beijing.

Shaikh, a father-of-three whom supporters say was mentally ill, was executed on Tuesday for drug smuggling despite extensive British ministerial lobbying that continued almost up until his execution.

But in a letter to the Guardian newspaper, his cousins Amina and Ridwan Shaikh lamented the lack of real British influence in the case.

"Did the British government pull out its diplomats in protest? Did it have a hard-hitting strategy to persuade the Chinese authorities to change their decision?" they wrote.

"This is an example of Britain's powerlessness in the world. Their strategy of being shoulder to shoulder with the US in the 'war on terror' has not given them the status they so desperately desire."

The cousins noted that "one of the justifications we are told for invading countries like Afghanistan is 'human rights violations'."

"If it is accepted by all that there are gross violations taking place in China, why aren't they too invaded? This is purely to do with the fact that China is a powerful country economically.

"Britain's economic dependence far outweighs these 'individual cases'."