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China Executes Hongkonger With History of Mental Illness Over Drug Trafficking

Wu Chi-man. Photo: Supplied to Hong Kong Free Press.
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Kelly Ho | Hong Hong Free Press

Parents see their son for the last time through a glass screen hours before he receives a lethal injection.

A Hong Kong man who suffered from hallucinations and other mental health problems has been executed in mainland China where he was sentenced to death in 2017 for drug trafficking. The execution came hours after his parents visited him for the first time since he was detained five years ago. 

Fifty-year-old Wu Chi-man, who pleaded guilty to dealing 15 kilograms of methamphetamine in Shenzhen in March 2016, received a lethal injection in the early hours of Friday, a volunteer in Hong Kong who helped on his case told HKFP.

Wu’s 80-year-old father and 78-year-old mother talked to their son in prison over a glass barrier hours before the execution. They had not seen Wu for years until the mainland authorities informed them weeks ago about a chance to visit the detained Hongkonger, and they knew it could be the last time to meet him. 

“They said that Wu looked healthy and emotionally stable, at the outset at least,” said Hannah, a volunteer at Voice for Prisoners who has been assisting Wu’s family since September last year. 

“He was grateful towards us for helping with his case, despite not changing his sentence,” she added. 

Wu’s family had appealed to both Hong Kong and Chinese authorities to spare the 50-year-old, saying he only committed the crime because of poverty while he was “troubled by his long-term mental issues.”

Wu was known to the city’s psychiatric services since 2000, and was diagnosed with polysubstance abuse, hallucinations and adjustment disorder, among other mental health problems. But his medical history was not mentioned in his initial trial in 2017, or at the subsequent appeal which upheld the death penalty.

Wu was a “gentle” person and “a good son,” his mother surnamed Chan told HKFP in a phone call last week when she was undergoing Covid-19 quarantine in a Shenzhen hotel. He deserved a “way out” and a chance to “correct himself,” Chan pleaded, adding that a death sentence was too severe for a man who had admitted guilt and had no criminal record in China. 

Speaking to HKFP under a pseudonym for fear of reprisals, Hannah said Wu’s parents would stay in Shenzhen until November 8 as they await his cremation and collect paperwork from the authorities. They are not allowed to take home Wu’s personal belongings, including a watch, a necklace and some money, because a 2020 court documented dictated that his possessions must be confiscated. 

Hannah added that Chan, who is diabetic, had to get a refill for her prescription despite having brought bottles of pills she needed when they crossed the border in early October. 

The Hong Kong Joint Committee on the Abolition of the Death Penalty submitted a petition to China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong earlier this month, asking the mainland authorities to stop the execution and grant Wu a new trial. They also called on China’s top leader Xi Jinping to pardon the Hongkonger.

Franco Mella, a member of the committee, told HKFP on Friday that the Beijing agency had replied that the matter was outside the ambit of its work. 

“From the content of the letter, the demands are not within the scope of work of our office. [We] suggest the organisation to handle the matter through legal means in the mainland,” the liaison office said in a written reply dated Wednesday. 

Rights NGO Amnesty International listed China as the world’s leading executioner in its annual report on the death penalty released in April. The true extent of the use of capital punishment was unknown, however, as relevant figures were classified as a state secret, it said.

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