x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

China rebuffs bid to save Filipino drug smugglers from execution

Three convicted by Chinese courts of smuggling heroin were duped into their crimes and should face long prison sentences instead of death, Philippines officials say.

MANILA // China has turned down a request by the Philippine vice-president to visit Beijing to plead for the lives of three Filipinos who are due to be executed next week for drug smuggling.

Jejomar Binay, the vice-president, said yesterday that his request to visit China to seek clemency for the three had been rebuffed, despite a personal appeal from Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

"As our leader and a Filipino, the president is bothered, he is saddened by this," Mr Binay said. "Join us in our prayers. They always say that miracles can happen."

Mr Aquino said on Wednesday that he had been trying in vain to get a call through to China's president, Hu Jintao, on the matter. But the Chinese embassy said the death sentence for the three was final.

Mr Aquino's spokesman, Ricky Carandang, warned that China had a record of standing firm about executing foreigners despite appeals from their governments.

"We saw recently, the British government tried to do this and they [the Chinese] did not give in," he said.

Akmal Shaikh, 53, a father of three who supporters say was mentally ill, was executed in December 2009 for drug smuggling despite extensive British pleas for clemency.

Of the condemned Filipinos, a 42-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman are scheduled to be executed on Monday in the southern city of Xiamen. A 38-year-old woman is due to be put to death in Shenzhen on Tuesday.

All three were convicted of smuggling heroin at separate trials in 2008, but Philippine officials say they were duped into their crimes and should face long prison sentences instead of execution.

The flare-up comes after ties chilled over the deaths of eight Hong Kong Chinese in a bungled bus hostage rescue in Manila late last year.

There was outrage in Hong Kong over Mr Aquino's decision to bring in only minor criminal charges against several police officials involved in the fiasco.