Woke myself up at 2.30 am this morning to say some prayers for Akmal Shaikh, the British man who was executed at that time in China.

The whole story about this case is horrible. Few people will want to have much sympathy for anyone caught carrying heroin. However no-one commenting on this case seems to think that this man was anything other than a dupe.

Much has been made of the fact that Mr Shaikh appears to be mentally ill – it is one of the things that was used in vain attempts to appeal for clemency from the Chinese government. However, I’m against all uses of the death penalty. The Chinese use of the ultimate sanction appears from the statistics gathered to be particularly barbarous.

Of course, Britain is not in a position to get on too high a horse about drug smuggling in China. It used to be vitually national policy and led to the Opium Wars.

Interesting to note in passing that one of the early opponents of the first Opium War was Gladstone who was born exactly two hundred years ago today. Friend of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the great liberal leader of his time, Gladstone deserves to be remembered with honour.s

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