In a country where executions are so commonplace as to barely rate a mention on the evening news, the death by lethal injection of a drug lord and three accomplices in China on Friday got its own two-hour special on state television.
Naw Kham of Myanmar and his gang were convicted of murder and sentenced to death in November for the killing of 13 Chinese sailors during an attack on two Chinese cargo ships on the Mekong River in 2011.
The crime sparked outrage in China, but so has the decision to televise the final hours of the condemned on national television.
Although the program, on China's CCTV, came to an end shortly before the execution took place, according to the BBC, it is believed to be the first time in China's recent history that such a broadcast has been made. In response:
" ... Chinese Internet users spoke out against the special program, in what some are saying was a throwback to the execution rallies of China's past."
According to The Los Angeles Times:
"At one point, the television broadcast cut away to show a gala-style award ceremony complete with patriotic music and small children carrying bouquets for the investigators who had worked on capturing the drug traffickers.
"Chinese television also broadcast a chilling interview with Naw Kham taped earlier this week in which he said, 'I am afraid of death. I want to live. I don't want to die. I have children. I am afraid.' "
The newspaper quotes Chinese human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, on a microblog, as saying, "This carnival on CCTV was a violation not only of ethics, but of the criminal code regulations that the death penalty not be carried out in public."
Many on the microblogs, however, applauded the execution of the four drug traffickers, the paper said.
China's official Xinhua news agency says Naw Kham and his accomplices:
" ... were found to have planned and colluded with Thai soldiers in an attack on two Chinese cargo ships, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8, on Oct. 5, 2011, on the Mekong River.
"As per Naw Kham's instructions, several of his subordinates also kidnapped Chinese sailors and hijacked cargo ships in exchange for ransom in early April 2011."