The hardest part about writing the previous article wasn’t actually gathering the information. It took me about an hour on google to track down the information in the Washington Post. The hard part was that Donald Clarke ended his blog post with:
Thus, one can only conclude that when the law prohibited the authorities from doing what they wished to do, they simply didn’t give a damn.
And I had to struggle extremely hard to avoid saying something very snide and sacastic in response.
One of the deep ironies of this situation is that the purpose of a criminal justice system is to make sure that there is no rush to judgment and that the facts of a case are known so before one makes a final (and in the case of the death penalty irrevocable) judgment. The trouble with snap judgments is that they tend to be based on prejudices rather than facts, and “Chinese officials are corrupt and blood thristy devils that don’t give a damn about the law” is just as strong and potentially dangerous prejudice as “(insert your ethnic group) are all dangerous terrorists.” And the fact that everyone (myself included) tends to make these sorts of judgments is *precisely* why we have courts and legal systems, and why in any sort of argument about what happened and what the law should do about it, you need two skilled litgators arguing against each other.
What bothers me is that I’m not the Washington Post, and I was able to with minimal googling able to come up with data that the writer of the article seemed to be quite unaware of.
The most interesting part of what I found is that the key paragraph of the Washington Post article is just wrong…
The public execution of the men was a dramatic example of the massive, unforgiving security operation that has been mounted in China to protect the Beijing Games from what Communist Party authorities describe as an urgent threat of violence and anti-government protest.
If you look at the timeline of events concerning the execution in Xinjiang, it becomes quickly obvious that this statement is just wrong. The two people involved were arrested in January 2007. Their trial occurred last November and was concluded in November 9. 2007. The delay between November and now is in part due to an new procedure by which all death penalty cases are reviewed by the Supreme People’s Court, and in short the timing of the executions had absolutely nothing to do with the Olympics as far as I can see. Also if you look at the charges against Mukhtar Setiwaldi and Abduweli Imin, they are pretty serious. One thing that none of the Western reports mention was that during the arrest, a police officer was killed and that the defendants were charged with possessing with 16 kg of explosives, 67 hand grenades, and two suicide suits.
Now one could argue about the unfairness of the Chinese judicial system and bring up the possibility that the defendants were totally innocent. But it is interesting that as the story progresses what the defendants were *charged* with gets removed.