South African Janice Linden executed in China

Convict sentencing, Wenzhou, April 2004 Thousands of people are executed each year in China

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China has executed a South African woman for drug smuggling, rejecting an appeal by President Jacob Zuma to spare her life, an official says.

Janice Bronwyn Linden, 38, was executed more than three years after her arrest.

Human rights groups have repeatedly condemned China for imposing the death penalty, saying its legal system did not guarantee a fair trial.

South Africa's government said the execution would not affect its close diplomatic relations with China.

Chinese authorities allowed two of Ms Linden's sisters to spend an hour with her before before she was executed with a lethal injection, South Africa's privately owned e.News reports, quoting a correspondent in China.

'Not enough done'

Ms Linden was arrested in November 2008 after being found in possession of 3kg of methamphetamine on her arrival at the airport in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

She maintained her innocence, saying the drugs had been planted in her suitcase.

Start Quote

A commitment to human rights is a guiding principle of South Africa's international relations. There has been little evidence of this commitment in our dealings with China of late”

End Quote Stevens Mokgalapa Democratic Alliance spokesman

However, both the Guangdong High Court and the Supreme Court in Beijing rejected her appeal.

A spokesman for South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Clayson Monyela, told the BBC that Mr Zuma had intervened in a bid to commute the death sentence to a life sentence.

"All the necessary interventions were done at every possible level, even the highest ones," Mr Monyela said.

The Chinese authorities would hand her ashes to her family, following her cremation, in accordance with an arrangement made between the two states, he said.

A foreign affairs spokesman for South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party, Stevens Mokgalapa, said the government had not done enough to save Ms Linden's life, South Africa's privately owned Times Lives reports.

"A commitment to human rights is a guiding principle of South Africa's international relations," he is quoted as saying.

"There has been little evidence of this commitment in our dealings with China of late."

In October, exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace laureate the Dalai Lama cancelled a trip to South Africa to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu's birthday celebrations because of delays in issuing his visa.

There was an outcry over the government's failure to grant the visa timeously, with critics accusing it of bowing to pressure from China - with whom it has forged strong diplomatic and trade ties - which sees the Dalai Lama as a secessionist leader.

Amnesty International has repeatedly appealed to China to halt the death penalty.

The human rights group argues that no-one sentenced to death receives a fair trial in China, where thousands are people are executed for drug trafficking every year - more than the rest of the world combined

Earlier this year China reduced the number of crimes that carry the death penalty by 13 to 55.

Mr Monyela said that while South Africa disagreed with China over the death penalty, the execution would not affect diplomatic and trade relations as their relationship was based on "mutual respect" for each other's laws.

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