Interview before the execution

If you ever commit a violent crime, pray you are not living in China. So many of the laws there are still archaic and inhuman. There is no presumption of innocence, confessions are often taken before a person is able to talk to a lawyer and if you are sentenced to die, you could die within seven days. And the method used is either a single shot to the head or lethal injection inside a boxed truck. In some places, even though it is officially illegal now, the condemned is taken to the place of punishment with a placard around her/his neck detailing the nature of the crime.

So it is no surprise that a T.V. program entitled “Interview Before the Execution,” started in 2006, was a huge success until recently when it was taken off the air. Every Saturday evening, millions of viewers would sit in front of the small screen and watch interviews with female reporter Ding Yu, who would talk to people convicted of violent crimes just before they face their executioners.

In spite of the objectionable nature of the program, it has served one purpose — highlight the state of the judicial system in China, which often offers no recourse and targets people who are perceived to be a threat to the regime. The fact that the government shut down the program as soon as the pressure overseas began to mount should tell us something.

I used to be in favor of the death penalty in the U.S., but after evidence began to pile up that many people have been sent to the death row by mistake, I began to have second thoughts. Now I have completely switched my view, not because I don’t think the penalty itself should never apply but because I can’t trust the system and the human elements running the  system. So in the absence of a guarantee that the system is flawless, I choose to err on the side of preserving life.

China has been changing by leaps and bounds but it still has a lot to learn in this area. And I think U.S. governments have been too tolerant toward some of these barbaric practices. I wish we could take a strong stance but I guess if we continue to continue to send people to the death row who shouldn’t be there, we lose the moral high ground when it comes to this practice. If you want to read a story about this in Spanish, go here.

BBC is going to air a documentary on “Interview Before the Execution.” If you can help it, don’t watch it.

Ivanildo C. Trindade