Slavery in Hongkong in the Supreme Court of Hongkong, criminal sessions, September 1879






In the Supreme Court of Hongkong, Criminal Sessions, September 1879.










7231 Pamph




In the Supreme Court of Hongkong, Criminal Sessions, September 1879.










In the Supreme Court Criminal Sessions, September 1879.








On the 6th October at the Criminal Sessions, before the Chief Justice (Sir John Smale) five prisoners were placed in the dock for sentence, having been severally convicted at these sessions of kidnapping a child, of detaining two children. with intent to sell them, and of selling and pur- chasing a child for the purpose of prostitution.

The Chief Justice, on taking his seat, said :-- On the Criminal Calendar for September, 1879, three cases now by adjournment come on for the Court to pass sentence on the prisoners con- victed. Case No. 1 R. v. Lee A Kau, convicted on the 18th of September last of having (first count) feloniously and unlawfully and by fraudu- lent means enticed away one A Ngan, a child under the age of 14 years, to wit 8 years, with

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intent thereby to deprive one Au A Ho of the possession of such child, on the 21st August, 1879, and (second count) having feloniously detained the same child in the same manner. Case No. 6 R. v. Tsang Sz Tau and U Ain, convicted on the 23rd of September last on four counts of (1) having detained against his will a boy named Ho Po Sing with intent to sell him in this colony on the 30th May, 1879. (2) Frau- dulently detaining same boy at same time with intent to sell him. (3 and 4) Like charges as to a boy called Yenng Shing. Case No. 9 R. v. Keung A To and Li A Kak, convicted on the 20th September last, as to Keung A To, of having purchased a female child named Tiu Heng for the purposes of prostitution in this Colony on the 4th March, 1879, as to Li A Kak of having sold the same child for the same purpose at the said time.

Two classes of Slavery in Hongkong.—Vari- ous causes have occasioned delay in passing sentence, of which I will only refer to one: the gravity of the fact that these and other cases have recently brought so prominently to the notice of the Court that two specific classes of slavery exist in this Colony to a very great extent, viz., so-called domestic slavery and slavery for the purposes of prostitu- tion. The three cases now awaiting the sen- tence of the Court are specially provided for by ordinances of 1865 and 1872 prohibiting kidnapping and illegally detaining men, women, and children, and no difficulty ever arose in my

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mind as to the crimes of which these prisoners are severally convicted or as to the sentences due to such crimes, and there is no question as to crimes or punishment of cases where women are smuggled into brothels, some licensed and others unlicensed, or otherwise dedicated to immoral purposes. But the enormous extent to which slavery in this Colony has grown up has called into existence a greatly increasing traffic, especi- ally in women and children. The number of Chinamen in this Colony has increased and is increasing rapidly, whilst their great increase in wealth has fostered licentious habits, notably in buying women for purposes sanctioned neither by the laws nor customs on the mainland.

Placarded rewards for restoration of purchased Slave Girls.-I hold in my hand a placard in Chi- nese, torn down from the wall of the Central School, Gough-street steps, in this City. The translation appears at length in the Hongkong Daily Press of August 15th, 1879. The purport of that translation is shortly that the advertiser, one Cheong, has a purchased slave girl named Tai Ho, aged 13 years. After a full description of the girl a reward is offered in these terms:-"If there is in either of the four quarters any worthy man who knows where she is gone to and will send a letter he will be rewarded with four full weight dollars, and the person detaining the slave will be rewarded with fifteen full weight dollars.” These words are subsequently added :—“This is firm and the words will not be eaten." I recently spoke in reprobation of slavery from this Bench,

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and in consequence of my remarks a gentleman who tore down this placard gave it to the Editor of the Daily Press and in a letter in that paper he stated that such placards are common and that he had torn down a hundred such placards. Has Cuba or has Peru ever exhibited more palpable, more public evidence of the existence of generally recognised slavery, in these hotbeds of slavery than such placards as the one I now hold in my hand to prove that slavery exists in this Colony? The notices have been posted in a most populous neighbourhood and have been in all probability read, they ought to have been, they must have been read, by scores of our Chinese policemen.

Estimale that 10,000 Slaves are in Hong- kong.-Important as this Colony is politically and commercially, it is but a dot in the ocean; its area is about half that of the county of Rutland; the circumference of this island is calculated at about 27 miles, whilst that of the Isle of Wight is about 56 miles. The cultivated land on this island may be to the barren waste about one half per cent. and there is no agrarian slavery here in nearly the total absence of farms, and on this dot in the ocean it is esti- mated that the slave population has reached 10,000 souls.

Conviction of three Kidnappers.-I first be- came fully alive to the existence of so-called domestic slavery in this colony at the Criminal Sessions in May last on the trial of two cases. In one

case I sentenced two poor miserable women for detaining a male child aged

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13 against provisions of Ordinance No. 4 of 1865, Sections 50 and 51, to imprisonment with hard labour for 18 months. It appeared that a re- spectable tradesman in Kowloon gave $17 for the child and detained him until the friends came from Canton and claimed the child, and then as against the relatives he claimed a right to detain the child even against his relatives from whom he had been kidnapped. In the other case I sentenced a poor, miserable woman for having stolen a female child aged 9 years under Ordi- nance 4 of 1865, Section 51, to two years' impri sonment with hard labour.

Purchasers not prosecuted.-It appeared that one Leung Atuk, the concubine of a compradore in this colony bought this child for $53 and kept her shut up in a room till the child, look- ing out of the window upstairs, saw her relative, and she was got back only through the intervention of the police. In each of these cases the child kidnapped was bought recklessly by the man and the woman on a guarantee by the sellers, much after the fashion a guarantee given on the sale of a horse that it was not stolen, each indifferent as to how posses- sion of the child had been obtained. In each of these cases I requested the prosecution of these well-to-do persons, purchasers of these human chattels, who had bought these children, whose money had occasioned the kidnapping just as a receiver of stolen goods buys stolen property without due, or any, inquiry to verify the patent lies of the vendors. I have reason to believe

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that H.E. the Governor was desirous that my request should, if proper, be complied with, but on reference to former cases it appeared that a former Attorney-General had found that the sys- tem had been almost if not altogether unchecked for many years past, and that in particular wheu His Excellency had desired to enforce the rights of a father to recover his child he was not disposed to enforce that right because the father had sold that child.

Such domestic servitude said to be protected by Proclamation.-On that precedent and on other precedents, also mainly in reliance OD two proclamations dated the 1st and 2nd of February, 1841, by which the free exercise of their religious rites, ceremonies, and social customs was promised to the Chinese (but this was temporary only "pending Her Majesty's future pleasure") the Administrator of the Government in the absence of the Governor was advised not to prosecute these two persons. In one of the cases at these Sessions now before me, it was in evidence that Pao Chee Wan, a very respectable man in this colony, took the child three years ago in pledge for $50 and she re- mained ever since the servant of Chan Atsoi, one of the fw respectable real first wives living in this colony, till she beat the child, who ran away and then was kidnapped. I took the responsi- bility to direct the Acting Attorney-General to prosecute this man and his wife. The responsi- bility rests on the Attorney-General, and on him alone, as the law officer of the Crown, to institute




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and prosecute proper proceedings. I under and that this Chinese gentleman and lady have left the Colony; their absence is to be regretted, as it prevents the trial of a test case not unfavourable to those who contend that domestic slavery as it exists in Hongkong is an institution which ought not to be put down. In this case I con- sider the service was really domestic, the wife being at its head. Time was when the coolie trade was said to be not illegal. Since the Kwok Asing case in 1871 no one has contended that it. is legal. No one now claims for kidnappers the right to kidnap men, women, or children, or to buy them, or to detain them when bought with notice of the kidnapping for any purpose. No one now claims the right to purchase or detain females for immoral purposes.

Is it impossible to put down Slavery?—But it is said that what is called domestic slavery, as it exists in Hongkong, is mild, and it is said to be the opinion of a gentleman of great experience in Chinese that as it exists here that it is as gene- ral a fashion for Chinese ladies in Hongkong to purchase one or more girls to attend on them as it is for English ladies to hire lady's maids, and that the custom is so general that it would be hig' ly impolitic, if not impossible, to put down the system.

System mild but also harsh. -It may be that slavery as it exists in the houses of the better classes in Hongkong is mild and that custom among the better classes renders servi- tude to them a boon as long as it lasts. It

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is, I believe, an admitted duty that when the young girl grows up and becomes marriageable she is married, but then it is the custom that the husband buys her, and her master receives the price always paid for a wife whilst he has received the girl's services for simple maintenance, so that according to the marriageable excess in the price of the bride over the price he paid for the girl he is a gainer and the purchase of the child produces a good return. But the picture has an- other aspect; what-if the master is brutal or the mistress jealous-becomes of the poor girl ? Certain recent cases show that she is sold to become a prostitute here or at Singapore or in California, a fate often worse than death to the girl, at a highly remunerating price to the brute, the master.

All Slavery in one category and illegal.-It seems to me that all slavery-domestic, agra- rian, or for immoral purposes comes within one and the same cateory. I proceed to answer the question, does the law of Hong- kong tolerate slavery in any shape? I be- lieve the whole question rests on the highest principles recognised by all European municipal law. I expressed the conclusion to which come in 1871. I extract the words in which I expressed that conclusion from the report of my judgment on the 25th March, 1871, in the Kwok Ashing case, from the only book in which it is printed in an enduring form, the American State Papers" The papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States, transmitted to


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Congress with the Annual Message of the Pre- sident; Washington, 1871." I then said: "The views put forth in this Colony compel me to refer to what elsewhere are assumed as axioms. Christianity teaches us that God made man in his own image and breathed into him the breath of life-eternal life. It does so happen that this Christianity is the law of England, of this Co- lony, and modern European philosophy in its own refined language teaches much the same doctrine of man's equality with man, only (as it assumes) on a rather more subtle hypothesis. Well, content as I am, and as judge mus: be, with the law of the land, I must answer the question : Is it possible that such a being as man can ac- cording to law a science of development accord- ing to the law A.n. 1871, become a slave even by his own consent? I say it is impossible in law, as Sir R. Phillimore, 1 Phill., International Law, Vol. I. p. 316, has said in a passage I read with the most respectful concurrence but too long for full quotation. Of this great truth its sound has at last gone out into all lands and its voice unto the ends of the world.' A man can no more, as I infer from the same high authority, by contract be authorized to take the liberty than to take the life of another. The proposition long ago enunciated by Locke (who was in almost a minority of one in his time), a proposition now universally accepted in morals, appears to me to flow from the first principles of English law as they have been developed at the present time. French law is the same as English law as to

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the right to personal liberty, 'En France qui- conque a mis le pied dans ce royaume est gratifié de la liberté.—Ib. 341.’

No Slavery but by positive law. It is unne- cessary for me to trace how it became the Common Law of England that whoever breathes the air of England cannot be a slave. I must, however, go back to 1771, when Granville Sharpe brought the question before the Court of Queen's Bench. In Somerset's case, Lord Mansfield said that there were 14,000 or 15,000 negroes claimed as slaves then residing in England, valued at £700,000 at that date. The de facto existence of slavery in England at that date was somewhat similar to the de facto state of slavery here as to the number of slaves and alleged hardship to slave-holders. He saw the difficulties, the disorganization, the ruin which must follow his decision, but he said fiat justitia ruat cœlum; and the Court unanimously decided that, notwithstanding the promises which had been given to the Jamaica planters by former Governments, that they might bring their slaves to England and take them back to Jamaica, relying on which they had brought their slaves to England, that the Law overrode all such promises, that they could not be taken back, that they were free. The golden words of Lord Mansfield were these,-"The state of slavery is of such a nature it is incapable of be- ing introduced on any reasons moral or political but only by positive Law... It is so odious that nothing can be suffered to support it, but

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positive Law." This is the language more than a century since uttered by no soft-hearted humanitarian, but by the Conservative Tory, the greatest Chief Justice of England, whose fame Junius assailed and whose library the mob burnt at a time when the slave trade flourished and slaves in the colonies were bought and sold in England. I quote from 2) State Trials, p. 82. Resting on that decision and relying on very many other grounds I am clearly of opinion that slavery, however mild, however much con- sented to by the slave himself or his parents, or for however limited a period, is contrary to, that it is prohibited by, the Common Law of England. In the Colonies slavery never existed except under positive enactment authorising it.

Hongkong in 1845 subjected to English anti-! slavery Laws. Has it ever been tolerated in Hongkong? I emphatically answer, Never. The two proclamations of 1841 I have al- ready referred to, are governed by the words "pending Her Majesty's future pleasure," in the second of the two forming one proclama- tion. Her Majesty was pleased to constitute this as a Crown Colony with a Legislative Council, and with these proclamations present to their minds the first Ordinance of the Legis- lative Council No. 1 of 1844 was an Ordinance to define the Law relating to slavery in Hong- kong. Well, it was a clumsy piece of legisla- tion. It was passed on February 28th, 1844, and it was disallowed by the Queen, of which notice was published in the Colony on the 24th

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of January, 1845, probably as soon as it was possible in those days, and on the same day a proclamation was issued in these words :- "Whereas the Acts of the British Parliament for the abolition of the slave trade and for the Abolition of Slavery extend by their own proper force and authority to Hongkong, this is to ap- prise all persons of the same and to give notice that these acts will be enforced by all. Her Ma- jesty's Officers, Civil and Military, within this Colony." What becomes of the argument in favour of slavery in any form founded on the proclamations read with this proclamation? I ask a further question: have all Her Majesty's Officers Civil and Military enforced these acts within this Colony? I think they have not; I confess that I have not. Our excuse has been in the difficulty in enforcing these acts, but mainly in our ignorance of the extent of the evil. What is our duty now that we know that slavery in its worst as in its best form exists in this dot in the ocean to the extent of say 10,000 slaves a number probably unexceeded with- in the same space at any time under the British Crown, and so far as I believe, the only spot where British Law prevails in which slavery in any form exists at the present time ?

Slavery in Hongkong not according to Chi- ese custom.-But can Chinese slavery as it de facto exists in Hongkong be considered 2 Chinese custom which can be brought within the intent and meaning of either of the Proclamations of 1841 so as to be sanc-

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tioned by the proclamations? I assert that it cannot. I say this, as at present advised, in the absence of argument. A custom is "such a usage as by common consent aud uniform. practice has become the law." In 1841 there could have been no custom of slavery in Hong- kong as now set up, for save a few fishermen and cottagers the island was uninhabited, and be- tween 1841 and 1844, the date of the Ordinance expressly prohibiting slavery, there was no time for such a custom to have grown up-and slavery in every form having been by express law pro- hibited by the Royal Proclamation of the Queen in 1845, no custom contrary to that law could, after that date, grow up, because the thing was by express law illegal. I go further, and I find that the penal Law of China, whilst it facilitates the adoption of children into a family to keep up its succession, prohibits by Section 78 the receiving into his house by any one of a per- son of a different surname, declaring him guilty of "confounding family distinctions," and punishing him with sixty blows; the father of the son who shall " give away (the idea of


sale seems unknown to Chinese law), his son is to be subject to the same punishment. Again, section 79 enacts that whoever shall receive and detain the strayed or lost child of a respectable person and instead of taking it before the Ma- gistrate sell such child as a slave shall be punished with 100 blows and 3 years' banishment. Who- ever shall sell such child for marriage or adoption into any family as a son or grandson, shall be

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punished with 90 blows and banishment for two years and a half. Whoever shall dispose of a strayed or lost slave shall suffer the punishment provided by the law reduced one degree. If any person shall receive and detain a fugitive child and instead of taking it before the Magistrates sell such child for a slave he shall be punished with 90 blows and banishment for two years and a half. Whosoever shall sell any such fugitive child for marriage or adoption shall suffer the punishment of 80 blows and two years' banish- ment; in each of the above-mentioned cases the punishment shall be less by one degree if the fugitive should be found to be a slave. All fugitives so disposed of shall suffer punishment one degree less than that inflicted on the seller, except when the previous offence of the fugitive shall have been the greatest, in which case the severer of the two punishments to which he is liable shall be inflicted. Whosoever shall detain

for his own use as a slave, wife, or child, any such lost, strayed, or fugitive child or slave shall be equally liable to be punished as above men- tioned, but if only guilty of detaining the same for a short time the punishment shall not ex- ceed 80 blows. When the purchaser or the ne- gotiator of the purchase shall be aware of the unlawfulness of the transaction he shall suffer punishment one degree less than that inflicted on the seller, and the amount of the pecuniary consideration shall be forfeited to government, but when he or they are found to have been unacquainted therewith they shall not be liable

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to punishment and the money shall be restored to the party from whom it had been received. After reading these extracts from the Penal Code of China-an old Code revised from time to time (I quote from the last revision made in 1875 and published in 1877), I cannot see how it can be maintained that any form of slavery was ever tolerated by law in Hongkong as it de facto exists here, or how the words of the two pro- clamations of 1841 could be said to bear the colour of tolerating slavery under the English flag in Hongkong. It is to me clear that the Queen's proclamation of 1845, which I have already quoted at full, declared slavery absolutely illegal here. In conclusion, I affirm that to sell or to buy or to hold or detain a man, a woman, or a child, as a slave or as property is absolutely prohibited by the law of England, which law is imported into and forms the substance of the law of Hongkong by virtue of Ordinances 6 of 1845 and 12 of 1873. I hold it to be contrary to the public morals which form a part of that law, and that it ought to be put down. As at present advised. I believe that the law as it exists is strong enough and that its arm is long enough to reach all illegal acts contrary aud offensive to public morality or public decency. The Attorney- General on a former occasion thought fit to press the Court to instruct him how to frame his in- formation in a case which the Court had directed to be prosecuted. The Supreme Court has habitually directod prosecutions in cases in which from what appears in Court it seems

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to the Judge proper that a special matter should be judicially investigated. This has been very frequently done in cases of perjury, but the Court stops there-the responsibility of proceed- ing or not proceeding with every case is by law imposed on the public prosecutor. If the Judge directed the frame of the information he would have prejudged the case. After framing the pro- secution he would be in a sort bound to uphold the information so framed by him, whether right or wrong; he would be at once prosecutor and Judge. I add that it is not the duty of the Executive to direct the public prosecutor what he is to do, because the law casts the whole re- sponsibility on the public prosecutor himself. I may, however, say that it is a general proposition that whatever is prohibited by the common law or by express enactment for which no other re- medy is provided may be treated and is a mis- demeanour if contrary to public policy or morals. Until it shall be tried and decided whether any particular breach of such prohibition is a mis- demeanor it cannot be said to be beyond the reach of the law. If and when any particular breach of the rules of the common law be determined by the verdict of a jury or by judicial decision to be beyond the reach of punishment, but not till then, it may become the duty of the public prosecutor to abstain from prosecuting for it and to ask the Executive to consider whether it would be right or proper to provide a remedy for the specific breach of the rules of the ccmmon law which the law as it stands shall have been shown not to reach.


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I feel that in what I have said I have but af- firmed truisms supported by arguments unne- cessarily long and prolix in the estimation of every man in England. What I have said has been said to meet arguments, doubts, and diffi- culties which have paralysed public opinion and public action here, which arguments, doubts, and difficulties are the less easy to combat because they have been rather hinted at than avowed.

Summary of propositions.—What I have intended to affirm I may briefly state thus :- 1. That in England, by the Common Law, slavery in every form has always been and is prohibited, that no one can acquire any right over the person of another, that no man can sell his own person into slavery, that a parent has no saleable property in his child; moreover, that every such sale is nudum pactum absolutely void, that money paid on any such sale cannot be recovered back; but that the man bought must be restored to liberty, and the sold child to his parent, as if no money had been paid that no purchase money can be recovered back, and that the crime in buyer and seller must be punished. 2.-That slavery has never been introduced into any British Colony except by positive law; so said Lord Mansfield. 3.-That all slavery was abolished throughout the British Colonies in 1833, when England nobly made a present of £20,000,000 as a boon to the slave holders. 4.-That Hongkong became a British Colony not until 1841, and then slavery had been absolutely prohibited by force of both the com-

*ay:སྶ ཀཉྩ...

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mon and the statute law then existing. 5.-That by the proclamation of the 24th of January, 1845, the Queen promised and undertook that the English laws against slavery will be enforced by all Her Majesty's officers, Civil and Military, within the Colony. 6.-That the obligation to enforce these laws is, therefore, absolutely im- posed by the Queen on every Civil and Military officer here as if the obligation had been espe- cially written at length in his commission or warrant of office.

7.-That these laws not hav-

ing been enforced each officer has failed in his duty to the Queen, and that the only excuse that anyone of us can urge for such failure in duty is ignorance of the existence of the extent of slavery here. 8. That it being now patent that there is now a very great number of slaves (say 10,000; the number has been estimated at even 20,000) of slaves in this Colony ignorance can no longer be our excuse, but that all officers of the Queen in this Colony, each in his department and to the best of his ability, must henceforth effectually enforce these laws or fail in the duty imposed on him by the Queen. Of this I feel assured, by his previous acts, that H. E. the Governor will actively promote all such pro- ceedings as will tend to enforce the laws against slavery here, so that this Colony may become as free from that taint as any other Colony under the British Crown by enforcing laws already in existence and, if necessary, by passing laws, how- ever stringent, that shall free this Colony effec- tually from all slavery.





In the Supreme Court Criminal Sessions,

27th October, 1879.



This was an adjourned sitting of the Court to pass sentence on two prisoners, one for kidnap- ping a boy and the other for detaining a young girl with intent to sell her.

The Chief-Justice now passed the following


Sentence on Tang Atim.-Tang Atim was first placed in the dock. After stating the crime of which the prisoner had been convicted, that of unlawfully taking away a boy four years old (1st) with intent to deprive the father of the boy, (2nd) with intent to sell him, and (3rd) with intent to pro- cure a ransom, his Lordship said-Your case is one of gross ingratitude. Received as you had been into the father's house in charity, you availed yourself of the opportunity to steal his

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child and tried to sell the child openly, probably having hawked him from door to door. The sentence of the Court on you Tang Atim is that you be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for two years, and that you be kept in solitary con- finement for a period of one week in every two months of your imprisonment.

Sentence on Chan Achit.—Chan Achit, an old woman, convicted of having unlawfully detained a female child of eleven years of age with intent to sell her, was next placed in the dock. His Lordship said-The evidence in this case has shown the extraordinary extent to which, under cloak of China custom, the iniquity of dealing in children has extended. From the evidence I have no doubt that a vagabond clansman to whom the father had occasionally given out of his penury had originated the crime in enticing the child away, and it seems to me to be clear that the prisoner was as well known as a "broker of mankind," as a receiver of stolen children, to sell them on commission, as receivers of old iron and marine stores could be found in this Colony to dispose of stolen property. The little girl bought and sold, aged 11 years, is a very intelligent child and described the negotiations for her sale with great clearness. I questioned her and I quote from the China Mail what is, I think, an accurate report of what was said :—

The little girl, Acheung, out of whose sale and pur- chase this prosecution had arisen, described the wo- man who was in the dock as a buyer and seller of people," and in reply to the Court explained that she

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used this term because she had seen this same woman hawking about children for sale.

His Lordship-How often?

Witness-Several times.

His Lordship-You are a very young girl. How do you come to know anything of this buying and selling of people ?

Witness-I have seen it.

His Lordship-How many times have you seen people hawking children and others about for sale ?

Witness-Often, and different men and women too. His Lordship-And this is a British Colony!

Witness, later on, in reply to His Lordship, said she had learned the expression "broker of mankind” from her uncle. She knew the police here and that they protected all persons; but she did not call in any help from that quarter, when she saw them in the street, as her uncle taught her not to.

His Lordship said he had thought at first that the expression "broker of mankind" was an uncommon one in Hongkong, but now he was coming to believe it was not.

Let me here ask is the trade, or rather profes- sion, "broker of mankind," also a sacred China custom. I will not add the queries which would naturally arise in case the question were answered in the affirmative. At present, however, I must say that, custom or no custom, the practice of this profession is prohibited by statute and it is my duty to meet its exercise by punishment. The sentence of the Court on you, Chan Achit, is that you be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for two years, and that you be kept in solitary confinement for a period of one week in every


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two months of your imprisonment. I am very sorry to have to sentence an old woman of your age in this way, but there must be an example.


Increase of Kidnapping.-His I ordship then said-I have now disposed of th cases of child- stealing at these monthly sessions. The cases sentenced at the last month's were three. They have been on the increase in the Colony. As I have before said, crime seems to come over the Colony like high tides-periodically. The pres- sent tide is of stealing women and children. The excess of these crimes roused my serious attention to the whole state of slavery as it exists in the Colony, which led to the observations which I made on the 8th instant in closing the sessions for September last. I have, with a solemn sense of my responsibility, considered and reconsidered all that I then said, and there is nothing I wish to retract. There may be as- pects of the question which it may be necessary for me to reluctantly add, but at present I do not wish from the Bench to add to what I have said, although there are considerations affecting this question which I have offered where it was proper. I rest shortly on the summary of eight propositions with which I concluded those ob- servations as the result of the facts and argu- ments I adduced.

The Chinese Petition.-I will now very briefly allude to the petition by the gentry, traders, and people of Hongkong presented to His Excellency

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the Governor. I must say that its composition and tone do credit to whoever drew it up. The statements appear to me to be one-sided and coloured, but on the whole more fair than is usual with persons who believe they are re- presenting grievances. I am bound to add that the strictures on myself are seemly. I am quite sure that such a tone will be the most effectual with H. E. the Governor, and with the Govern- ment in England, and with that great public there, whose moral tone influences the current of thought throughout the British Empire for good.

Domestic Slavery a Chinese Custom.-The petitioners rest their rights on the proclamation of Governor Sir Charles Elliot, but the petitioners ignore the other proclamation of 1841. They especially ignore the proclamation of January, 1845, by which slavery was declared to be ab- solutely abolished in Hongkong, which as they have referred to my observations, they must have read there, if there only for the first time.

Infanticide also a Chinese Custom.-I cannot help alluding to one passage in the petition; it says "Amongst the Chinese there has hitherto been the custom of drowning their daughters. If a stop is put to the sale the custom will be yet more observed;" and again to the third of the ten arguments used, which says,-" In China among the evils heretofore existing is the custom of drowning female infants, in the Kwangtung province more especially so; numbers of the ex- treme poor cannot supply even themselves with

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raiment and food. The added cares brought by children ensue; these people having no one to receive their progeny from them will immediately on bringing them forth destroy them by drown- ing;" and the petitioners threaten the increase of this "custom" of drowning children if their sale is put down. I quote the passages without the interpolated explanations of the translator, which are his commentary, and nothing more. Now this petition claims the liberty to continue buying and selling children and women because it is a Chinese custom expressly protected by Governor Elliot's proclamation; but the peti- tioners call drowning female infants also a Chi- nese custom.

Both Customs in same category. They place the two crimes according to the English law under the same category "custom," and there- fore in effect claim for infanticide that it is free from criminality in Hongkong. I can only say that in case father, mother, or relative were convicted of infanticide, Chinese custom would be no protection, and, unless I am grievously mistaken, the presiding Judge would have no alternative but to sentence the perpetrator to death, and the only possible hope would be in the mercy of the Crown if exercised by H. E. the Governor. Other errors are patent in the petition, but I confine myself to the remarks I have made. I had prepared what I have just said before I had seen the letter, which appears in the Daily Press of this morning, in which the accuracy of the translation is impugned,

as to "

L7 1

whilst the translator vindicates it. Leaving this new question for settlement between these writers, I note that the meaning or use of the word "custom" in the petition is not impugned. My observations, therefore, remain untouched by the controversy; no one questions that the word " custom," as used in the petition, is used slavery," or whatever name the peti- tioners may decide to designate it by, and is the same word "custom by them applied to the usage of relatives drowning their infant chil- dren, and that in fact, if not in law, the one custom is tolerated just as the other custom is tolerated, and both alike or neither must be claimed as sanctioned by Governor Elliot's Proclamation.


Further argument beyond Judge's function.— Beyond what I have already said I will not deal with the facts or arguments of the petitioners. Indeed it seems to me to be my duty to retire from all controversy. To enter on the arena of controversy is beyond my province. It was my duty-thinking that I had found out grave evils -to say so. My function as Judge stops there; it is for the statesman and the legislator to deal with the matter as an evil to be tolerated or to be put down.

Evils to be moderately remedied.—I will only add that if it be decided the evil is to be abated, as I expect will be the decision, I do not desire any sudden or violent intervention with such of the transactions in the past as are within the favourable colouring of the petitioners. Such a

[ 8 ]

course would on many grounds be objectionable. I trust that admitted grave wrong in the past still existing will be put an end to.


For every public wrong a public remedy.—I do hope that as to the future a new order of things will be inaugurated, and that the law of this Colony will be enforced in favour of personal liberty as fully as in the protection of property. I must here repeat that by the Common Law of England, which happily is the law of Hongkong, slavery of every kind whatever, all property in human beings, is, as asserted by Lord Mansfield, odious to English law, is a public wrong. every wrong the law has a remedy. Is there not by Common Law for every public wrong a public remedy? is not the only remedy by indictment or information wherever and whenever the law provides no other remedy? All remedies which ever existed by Common Law or by statute in England up to 1845 against ownership of human beings, against every form of slavery, extend by their own proper force and authority to Hong- kong, and, if that were not enough, all English laws applicable to Hongkong, including those against ownership in human beings, were by ex- press Ordinances 6 of 1845 and 12 of 1873 em- bodied into the laws of Hongkong, whilst the worst forms of slavery are especially punished by Ordinances 4 of 1865 and 2 of 1875. I am bound by most solemn obligation to enforce all these laws. I must, therefore, without fear, favour, or affection, discharge this duty to the best of my ability.



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