[JURIST] British national Akmal Shaikh was executed [Xinhua report] Tuesday by the Chinese government after being convicted of bringing almost nine pounds of heroin into the country. Following Shaikh's 2007 arrest [Times Online backgrounder] and November 2008 death sentence, rights groups have urged the Chinese government not to carry out the punishment [Reprieve release], arguing that Shaik suffers from mental illness. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] has also issued a statement [press release] condemning the execution. China has defended the sentence, saying that Shaikh recieved a fair trial [Xinhua report].
China has recently faced significant criticism of its human rights record and use of the death penalty. Last week, human rights activist Liu Xiabo was sentenced to 11 years [JURIST report] in prison for subversion following a two-hour trial. His arrest and trial were condemned [HRW release] by numerous international human rights groups. Earlier this month, a Chinese court sentenced five more individuals to death [JURIST report] for their role in the Xinjiang riots, bringing the total number of individuals sentenced to death to 14. Nine of those 14 individuals were executed in November [JURIST report].