2003: He Xiuling, Ma Qingxui, Li Juhua and Dai Donggui

3 comments June 25th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 2003, four women all condemned for drug offenses were among a group executed by shooting at Wuhan, in central China. This mass execution (conducted in secret but preceded by a humiliating public trial) was scheduled around the June 26 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. China has a very long history of looking askance at drug-dealing, and it usually uses the prelude to June 26 for some pointed, well-publicized executions.

In 2003, photographer Yan Yuhong spent 12 hours with this quartet of women on the eve and morning of their executions at Detention Center No. 1. Only years later did the photographs get out: a moving glimpse of ordinary people under the pall of death and the guards and prisoners around them, they made worldwide news in 2011. Apparently their distribution in 2003 was quashed on authorities’ concerns that they were a bit too moving for the big anti-drug message.

Select images follow; the entire series can be perused here or here, and in poignant timeline form here.

He Xiuling

He Xiuling is the most immediately recognizable among them, a pudgy 25-year-old who looks inordinately mirthful in many pictures, but sobs openly just before she is led away to be shot. Follow-up reporting paints the picture of a simple country girl lured by a boyfriend into being a drug mule. She was evidently led to believe, up until the last, that her sentence would be commuted: “I’ll still only be 40 when I’m free!”

Had she been spared, she would be 35 now.


She thought the white top made her look “too fat”, and a guard kindly provided a black one.


Several pictures how He Xiuling smiling and laughing. Here, she enjoys breakfast on the morning of the 25th. She has about four hours to live.


Weeping moments before her execution.

Ma Qingxui

The oldest of the women and seemingly the only one of the quartet who could be characterized as something more than a small-time mule, 49-year-old Ma Qingxui from Baokang county of Hubei province was on her fourth conviction for smuggling more than 8 lbs. of narcotics.


Dressed all in red, Ma Qingxui donates her clothes to another inmate.


Ma Qingxiu being escorted out of the detention center for the execution grounds at 7:21 a.m.

Li Juhua and Dai Donggui

The prisoners least seen in the series and those of whom the least has been reported in the west.


An ordinary (non-condemned) prisoner paints Li Juhua’s toenails on the morning of the latter’s execution.


She dictates her last will and testament to a fellow-prisoners.


On the evening of June 24th, Dai Donggui carefully folds the execution clothes a guard has purchased for her.


A last supper. Reportedly, McDonald’s food is routinely served at the facility for this occasion.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,History,Mass Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Women

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2011: Three Philippines drug mules in China

6 comments March 30th, 2011 Headsman

Today in China, overseas Filipino workers Ramon Credo, 42, Sally Villanueva, 32, and Elizabeth Batain, 38, were executed by lethal injection in China as drug smugglers — the first two in Xiamen, and the last in Shenzhen.

The three had been arrested in 2008 and convicted in 2009 for carrying heroin — they said unknowingly — into the People’s Republic.

The fate of these three aroused an outpouring of sympathy in their native land, where economics drives up to 10% of the population to work overseas, often at a hazard.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, who personally traveled to China to plead their case, called it “a sad day for all of us.” (Unusually, China actually granted a few weeks’ reprieve from the original February execution dates. This was viewed as a concession, and why not? China has rolled stronger countries in similar cases before without even that courtesy.)

While this case was in the headlines for weeks in the Philippines and around the world, the condemned at the heart of it seem not to have realized their deaths were imminent until relatives flew in from China to meet with them on this very day, just hours before execution.

These seem to be the first known Philippines nationals executed in China for drug trafficking, and if that’s a surprising milestone for the world’s most aggressive executioner to be setting with a regional neighbor noted for its many overseas workers … it bears remembering that it’s only China’s stupendous economic growth in the past generation or so that has made it such an especially attractive migrant worker destination.

This execution date also happens to be the 40th anniversary of another landmark event in Sino-Filipino relations, the hijacking of a Philippines airliner by six students, who diverted it to China. Those illicit airborne arrivals were greeted with considerably more leniency than our present-day drug couriers enjoy.

Seventy-two more Philippines nationals are reportedly under sentence of death in China for drug crimes(or not), and around 120 more for various offenses throughout the world.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Lethal Injection,Milestones,Philippines,Ripped from the Headlines,Women

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1999: Dole Chadee, crime lord

2 comments June 4th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1999, crime lord Dole Chadee hanged at the prison in Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago … to be swiftly followed by two members of his narco-trafficking syndicate, with six more of their number set to die over the succeeding 72 hours.

A big-time mover of cocaine and therefore a big man in the former British colony, Chadee — “Nankissoon Boodram” to his parents — was recognizable for a generation for his slick coiffure, mirrored shades, and greased-palm untouchability.

He greased plenty of people, too.

Maybe it was only consequence of losing the traffic’s underground turf war that made the fatal crimes politically possible to prosecute. Whatever it was, the murder outraged of a small-time cog in his network — and the cog’s sister — and their parents — outraged a public weary of rampant drug violence.

So most of his countrymen were pleased to see Chadee swing, and little wonder: this hombre was bad enough to get the chief witness against him assassinated while behind prison walls.

In fact, Chadee led an active life in the criminal underworld from the shadow of the gallows. Chadee’s own brother was kidnapped for ransom in a gangland tit-for-tat episode while the boss awaited the rope. Dole Chadee refused to have it paid, and the brother was murdered.

And there was family drama on the other side of the legal briefs, too.

The hangings were secured by the aggressive action of Attorney General — and former anti-death penalty lawyer — Ramesh Maharaj. During the very time he was getting the noose around Dole Chadee’s neck, Maharaj’s own brother was on death row in Florida (the sentence has since been reduced to life imprisonment).

There were fears (or hopes!) that the Caribbean island’s breakthrough executions could open the floodgates for “hundreds” held up by legal rigmarole and the picky oversight (pdf) of the British Privy Council. In the event, however, actual executions in Trinidad and Tobago remain a very rare phenomenon.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Organized Crime,Trinidad and Tobago

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2008: The Bali Bombers

2 comments November 9th, 2008 Headsman

On this date — mere hours ago as of this writing — three of the most infamous terrorists in two nation’s histories were shot in a jungle clearing on Indonesia’s Nusa Kambangan Island.

“At around 00:15 am (1715 GMT Saturday) the three convicted men on death row, Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra, were executed by firing squad,” said attorney general’s office spokesman Jasman Panjaitan.

“The autopsy results show that all three are dead. The family members are now bathing the bodies.” (Source.)

The men were taken from prison and tied to wooden crosses in the Indonesian prison island’s forest, where they were shot simultaneously by three separate firing squads for the October 12, 2002 bomb attack on the island of Bali that claimed 202 lives.

Though taking place in Indonesia, the strike was aimed at westerners vacationing at a tourist hot spot. Eighty-eight Australians were slain, along with 76 other (predominantly European) foreigners. The only shred of regret the late executees ever betrayed was that the infidel body count wasn’t higher.


The mediagenic murderers display a range from insouciant to jocular in most of their photos. The ever-grinning Amrozi — in the middle — was known as the “smiling assassin.”

The three facing death today* have occupied most of the intervening six years endeavoring to transmute their criminal celebrity into the dearer coinage of martyrdom through the doubtful influence of the Philosopher’s Stone mass media.

Despite their body count, burial disturbances, and even the prospect of some follow-up strike by at-large members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a base metal the late bombers will remain. Picture the most fanatical devotee of any cause you care to conjure drawing any enduring inspiration from this juvenile twaddle.

Indonesia has appeared to sidle towards this execution, ginger at inflaming Islamic radicals; Australia, which has no death penalty itself, has been controversially mum and bombing victims and their families conflicted.

It remains to be seen whether the high-profile case has legs among militants. But its undertones of race, religion and national sovereignty are being very closely watched by one group of Australians in particular: the Bali Nine, Australian nationals in Indonesian custody for drug smuggling.

Three of the nine are currently on death row, reportedly “somber” at this day’s shootings — no doubt aware that they could be next.

Update: True to the publicity-savvy rep, Imam Samudra reportedly knocked out a nasheed or nasyid just before his execution that’s now a hot ringtone download.

[audio:Imam_Samudra.mp3]

* A fourth man was also death-sentenced, but that sentence was vacated on appeal.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Australia,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,God,History,Indonesia,Infamous,Martyrs,Murder,Popular Culture,Religious Figures,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Terrorists

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