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China Executes Japanese Senior Citizen

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.



Moral of the story: Dont F**k around in China

Shouldn't the title read 'China Executes Japanese Drug Smuggler'?

Either way, China is a dirty, corrupt country that has nothing much to show for 5,000 or so years on this planet.

"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."

The poor "unfortunate" international drug smuggler. My heart bleeds...

"Civilized First World Nation?" What, Japan? Where confessions are beaten out of people and they are executed on the basis if those confessions? Sorry it's really hard to call any nation civilized if it still uses the death penalty.
The first poster is right. They are drug smugglers. They know the score, knew the risks, and took them for the money.

Was it 2.5kg? (Your article)
Or 1.5kg? (BBC)

You will excuse me if I do not rush to defend your statements about Japan being a first world country. What is the basis of your argument for this? It clearly cannot be because of equal women's rights or the rights of foreigners or the right to a fair trial, how about it's refusal to take in refugees? Not to mention Japan's own continued secrecy veiling executions carried out in Japan. While I agree that Japan is an economically advanced nation, it lags behind other so-called developed nations in so many other spheres, it's no better than its tin-pot neighbours. At least they don't have ideas above their station about how worthy they are.

I honestly believe that the smuggler's nationality had nothing to do with the execution. China regularly executes its own citizens, a case in point is the head of the toothpaste company which poisoned people. The Chinese government did not hang around to end his life. So the author might want to take it less personally that the smuggler was Japanese.

But when all is said and done, who can forget the age old adage 'if you can't do the time, don't do the crime'. People know the laws are strict about such things, but they analyse the pros and cons of their decisions and they are aware of the inherent risks of such behaviour. So if you proceed with such actions, you must be prepared for the consequences, fatal as they may prove to be.

Totally agree! And whilst we're on the subject can we talk about Japan and its whaling? How much more f&^%&^%$ research can they do on whales? For goodness sakes, they must by now, know every molecule that makes up a whale's entire anatomy.

In any event, deal in drugs take the consequences. No sympathy from me!

Id have to agree with some of the recent comments made. In terms of it being a first world country, well even to have a concrete definition of that is difficult. Some researchers, namely economists, would define it as simply as a country with a really high GDP. Japan is, yes, still the 2nd richest country, according to GDP. And yes, the technology is there and in many cases, mind blowing.

On many other fronts, however, especially when it comes to social justice and equality (as Eleanor mentioned above), it is still quite draconian - in my opinion. I, too, fully agree with one of the posters above, that any nation which still has the Death Penalty cannot be called a (fully) developed nation. Its really iffy though.. if someone was to CONFESS to mass murder or the like, then maybe.. but in a country like Japan, where suicide tends to be a bit more common than in many other nations, it could simply encourage those that want do die and are depressed to do something similar to the Akihabara truck incident.

With respect to this case, I agree with Shawn in that leaving the country with the stimulants would have zero negative effect on China. Nonetheless, the same could be said for me or anybody else who, say, decided to leave Japan with drugs. But would we be let off the hook in Japan simply because it was going to have zero effect on Japan's society? Not bloody likely! Japan may not give you the death sentence for drug possession/smuggling, but they sure as hell aint gonna let you off with a slap on the wrist either! Not like in New Zealand on the show Border Patrol, where some dude from the U.S. on yesterday's ( i think?) episode was in possession of weed but said he had it for medicinal purposes and didnt know it was illegal in NZ (probably BS, but whatever..). Anyway, dude was let off with a warning pretty much... unlike the 10-20 years youd probably get in the slammer in Nihon...

I kind of feel sorry for these senior citizen types. They probably got in hock to the yakusa, and were told that this was a way to pay them back. However, if China doesn't execute people for this kind of thing, then more will certainly come. Execution regardless of station in life is the best disincentive there is.

As to the quantity of the drugs:
Some reports suggest that he was carrying 2.5 kilos, some say 1.5 kilos with another 1 kilo in another piece of luggage that belonged to him or to an unnamed accomplice, so I took the higher of the numbers reported.

As to my claim that Japan is a civilized nation:
It is a very civilized nation. The laws here are sometimes misunderstood by the citizens and the police officers alike, as they are in all countries. The problem of police who do not understand racial sensitivities is an age old problem spanning every nation. The security of the person and the safety of the community is one of the best things about Japan. I feel safe here in Japan, safer than I do in any other nation and that makes Japan civilized. I do not feel safe when I am in China, that is the difference.

As to the issue of “he knew what he was in for:”
Yes, he did. The commentary I wrote was not supposed to focus on making him look innocent. I don't feel a great deal of sorrow for him as a person. I am not Japanese, nor do I wish to be. I was attempting to point out that China continues to operate outside international norms. It is a country where justice can be bought, frequently is and the notion of judicial independence in China is a laughable atrocity. The other element I was attempting to stress was in the weak support offered by the Japanese government. They need to be more aggressive. The politicians in Japan are far to sheepish.


Randy Poehlman

I think Japan is in the uncomfortable position of having a log in its own eye so can hardly call China out. Japan cannot sit on its moral high horse about executions when they are regularly practised in Japan, albeit after significant (sometimes flawed) judicial process, but the end result is the same: off with his head! And your comments, Randy, on the DPJ's failure to issue a strong statement works on the assumption that they do not agree with the sentencing privately. While Japan may not adopt a similarly tough stance on drug smuggling, it is hardly a slap-on-the-wrist offence here. As seen with the whaling issue, government officials can come out in full support of causes they do believe in. I also believe that in the interests of long-term diplomacy, megaphone diplomacy will not work with China. They have spent far too long being sidelined to respond well to perceived bullying and aggression. A softly softly approach, although unlikely to be popular among the general populace, might yield better results.

In this case, I think the age of the deceased smuggler, and the others awaiting execution, is not that relevant; in fact, at his age, he should have shown significantly better judgement. This is not some 20-year old naive kid fresh from high school and still wet behind the ears. And there seems to have been an increase in OAPs dabbling in the drugs trade in recent years. That's what the pensions crisis will do to you :-) Seeing as how life expectancy in Japan is very high, at the time of the crime he would have been about 62, which is positively sprightly. He would have hardly been a put upon decrepit oldie. There should be no wiggle room just because you are over 60. Actually, this could be a cost-saving measure for greying populations. Plant some marijuana on them (seeing as how officials at Narita have form in this field), post them off to China on an all-expenses paid holiday and leave the Chinese authorities to do the rest.

researching how delicious whale is.

Unfortunately for Japan it also plays those kinds of games. It has no authority - moral or legal - to tell China what to do re Japanese committing or suspected of committing criminal actions in Chinese territory.

In Japan, a liberal democracy on the face of it, people are coerced into signing confessions they would never have signed with full lawyer access and first world, 21st century interrogation proceedings under normal police jurisdiction. They are arrested if they are foreigners who wish to see their children after their Japanese spouses have basically kidnapped their children using all the privileges of a western country. They are guilty until proven innocent - just like China. They are the ganders getting the sauce here.

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