Today, Chinese authorities executed a Japanese man for drug smuggling. This marks the first execution of a Japanese national in China since the two countries normalized relations in 1972. Officials in Beijing also made Japanese politicians aware that they are scheduling three more executions of Japanese prisoners this week.
Mitsunobu Akano, a 65 year old was executed in the northeast Liaoning Province following his trial and subsequent appeal stemming from a 2006 arrest. The deceased was allegedly caught with 2.5kg of “stimulant drugs” at an airport in Dalian. He was attempting to bring the drugs from China to Japan. The attempted smuggling of the stimulants in question would have no impact on the Chinese population, as the drugs were destined for Japan. The drugs were of Chinese origin and Akano was heading back to Japan, thus the resulting “victims,” of this offense would have been citizens of Japan. The unfortunate part for Akano was that he was detected in China and prevented from taking his flight into the realm of a civilized, fist world nation.
“Beijing told Japan last week that it plans to execute three more Japanese drug smugglers this week - Teruo Takeda, 67, from Nagoya city; Hironori Ukai, 48, from Gifu prefecture; and Katsuo Mori, 67, of Fukushima prefecture.” (1)
The timing of these executions comes at a crucial point. Japan and the Democratic Party has begun to open up diplomatic avenues to the Chinese government, that were unrealistic a year ago under Liberal Democratic leadership. Wen Jiabao and his officials in China are demonstrating arrogance and subtle power sifts in this latest attempt to gain a little more power over Tokyo.
The lack-luster comments offered by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Justice Minister Kiko Chiba were factual, but lacked a necessary ounce of leadership. The three said in large part that it is unfortunate, but there is little they can do, because the issue is a matter of Chinese domestic legal process. The Japanese government should have been putting more pressure on the Chinese to curb today's execution and to suspend the other upcoming executions. If Japan wants to drive Asian politics they have to get a touch more courageous, especially with Chinese officials. Hatoyama should have come out in front of this story saying something to the effect of, “Yes, China will execute a 65 year old Japanese man for drug smuggling. His execution is to be followed by three more elderly Japanese citizens in the coming week. The Chinese judicial system is free to act with independence, but the world would really like to know how many executions are carried out in China annually?”
Amnesty International is handling the situation in a bit more of a confrontational manner, and last week urged China to account for all of the executions in the country. Chinese officials claim that they are executing less prisoners than they did before, but reducing your numbers from tens of thousands to thousands still leaves a lot of room for improvement.