The front pages of South African newspapers over the past few weeks have been dominated by one story – that of the execution of Janice Linden. Three years ago she was convicted of smuggling 3kg’s of tik through China’s Baiyun International Airport, an offence which, in China, carries the penalty of death by lethal injection.
I am going to go on record and say that I have no time for drug mules – admittedly, I do not know of their motives, whether it is for money or for pleasure, but to risk throwing away your life, literally in this case, is nothing short of idiotic.
I do however reserve some sympathy for Janice Linden. The death penalty is a shockingly outdated punishment, one that has rightly been outlawed in most parts of the world. I personally do not believe that any action is justifiably penalised by death.
This is a common view, and understandably news of Linden’s execution has been met with much outrage in her native country. China play an increasingly influential role in not just South Africa, but Africa as well, and thus the connection linking the two countries is growing stronger as each year passes.
Surely then, her fellow citizens fume, we could have put up more of a fight? Linden’s family have expressed their deepest disappointment in the South African government in the way they seemingly idly stood by whilst one of their people was put to death by one of their biggest trading partners.
There have been cases, six in total, where South Africans have been spared the death penalty in China for similar offences – although whether these were via pressure from our government is debatable.
But I think that you could argue that there was not much that could have been done. China is a vastly proud and traditional society, and this is exemplified by the fact that they have kept laws like the death penalty whilst a large part of the world seems to have moved on – in fact, China execute more of their own people, even on a per capita basis, than any other country in the world.
I am not going to pretend that I understand Chinese culture; their motives or their traditions. From our point of view, the execution was handled extremely badly in that she was told a mere few hours before it was to happen, but we live in a completely different society, so we cannot judge and criticise that which we do not understand. Whilst Janice Linden’s execution and the way in which it was carried out might seem gravely harsh to us, it seems perfectly justified to the people of China. That is the world that they, and we, live in.
In short, Janice Linden chose to risk her life, and it just so happens that she must pay the ultimate price because of the place she chose to risk her life in. Whilst we could go on about how our government did nothing to help her, in the end I do not really think there is much they could have done to change the practices of one of the oldest institutions in the world. Janice Linden chose her fate when she decided to smuggle 3kg of tik through Baiyun International Airport, and we, as fellow South Africans, must accept this.