Drone Attack and Instant Execution: Violence and counter-violence

Posted: 2011年08月14日 in Original Thoughts

In their article “Washington’s Phantom War” on Foreign Affairs (July/August 2011), Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann call for the U.S. to rethink its drone program and argue that it won’t help Washington win the larger war in AFPAK region unless the strikers become more transparent and control over them is transferred from the CIA to the military. Drone attack describes the tool and method of killing acts that need no legal evidence and trial to execute the suspects. A similar attack can be found on the other side of Karakhuram Mountain in Xinjiang and it is called execution on the spot or instant execution (就地正法). After the occurrence of the Kashgar violence in July 30th and 31th, the Kashi authority announced next day that two suspected attackers, Memti Tiliwaldi and Tursun Hasan were executed on spot in Kashi suburbs by the police (在逃的嫌犯买买提艾力、吐逊艾山在喀什市郊,被公安机关在实施抓捕中,就地正法。

For non-Chinese media, the killing of the attack suspects is simply translated as “shot dead,” as if the suspects were killed during fire exchange or due to resistance to arrest (e.g., http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-08-01/chinese-police-shoot-dead-xinjiang-attack-suspects-xinhua-says.html). Actually the Chinese term就地正法 means much more than just “shot dead.” It literally means justifiable execution on the spot or justifiable instant execution, as indicated by “正”, and this trial-omitting practice had been popular in China’s dynasties. Some Chinese observers see the re-introduction of term and practice in Xinjiang as an indication in the change of China’s anti-terror strategy (e.g., http://www.jqgc.com/gjjq/12726.shtml). Many others, especially legal experts, have expressed the concern over the use/abuse of the term even when fighting and arresting the attack suspects in Kashi. As Li Xuxi of Ziguan Law Firm in Beijing states, instant execution violates Chinese laws and the Xinjiang authorities should not use the term. Another attorney, Pu Zhiqiang points out that such execution of the suspects by the Xinjiang authority is scaring and he urges the Chinese authority to re-consider the excessive use of forces in Xinjiang.

To carry out the execution on ideological ground (e.g., three forces) without investigating the cause of the violence and the background of the case simply constitutes a political campaign. The Chinese people had suffered bitterly from various political campaigns from 1950s to 1970s, as millions of people were executed without legal trail. In Xinjiang today, numerous “internal regulations” and the use/abuse of instant execution is making a systematic campaign against the Uyghurs as a whole. It seems to indicate that Xinjiang is now experiencing what China proper had experienced before 1978.

What U.S. drone attack in AFPAK regions and Chinese instant execution in Xinjiang share is the lack of transparency and legal justification. Drone attack and instant execution makes the American and Chinese behavior more like assassination, especially when this act is carried out by intelligence unit or special force. In other words, killing without legal procedure blurs the difference between terrorists and anti-terrorists. The lasting violence in AFPAK regions and the causalities of both Americans and local population have forced American scholars to reflect on war ethnics of drone attacks. Similarly, the deteriorating situation in Xinjiang should alert the Chinese authorities, local or central, to re-think about the law-violating practices such as 就地正法 when dealing with the so-called evil forces.


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