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Heathen Slaves and Christian Rulers by Elizabeth Wheeler Andrew and Katharine Caroline Bushnell

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contusions, of which she died.... The jury aforesaid are further
of opinion that Inspector Lee, the aforesaid Inspector of
Brothels, exceeded his powers by entering the house, No. 42,
Peel Street, without a warrant, or any direct authority from the
Registrar General or the Superintendent of Police, and would
strongly recommend that the whole system of obtaining convictions
against keepers of unlicensed brothels be thoroughly revised,
as the present practice is, in our opinion, both illegal and

[Footnote A: Inspector Lee testified on this occasion that he
sometimes had chased women over the roofs of as many as twenty
contiguous houses.]

On Nov. 1st, 1877, Governor Hennessy wrote to the Colonial Office,

"I have taken the responsibility of putting a stop to a practice
which has existed in this Colony since September, 1868, when Sir
Richard MacDonnell sanctioned the appropriation of Government
money for the pay of informers who might induce Chinese women to
prostitute themselves, and thus bring them under the penal clauses
of the Contagious Diseases Ordinance. For many years past this
branch of the Registrar General's office has led to grave abuses.
It has been a fruitful source of extortion, but what is far worse,
a department of the State, as one of the local papers now points
out, which is supposed to be constituted for the protection of the
Chinese, has been employing a dangerously loose system, whereby
the sanctity of native households may be seriously compromised.
I had no idea that the Secret Service Fund was used for this
loathsome purpose until my attention was drawn to an inquest on
the bodies of two Chinese women who were killed by falling from
a house in which one of the informers employed by the Registrar
General was pursuing his avocations.... I am taking steps to
institute a searching inquiry into the whole subject. The European
community are ashamed at the revelations that have been made at
the inquest, and amongst the Chinese the practice that has been
brought to light is, viewed with abhorrence."

This was the incident which led to the appointment of the Commission
of Inquiry into the working of the Contagious Diseases Ordinance, the
report of which Commission we have already had occasion to quote from
more than once.

Later, Governor Hennessy wrote to the Colonial Office:

"Whilst the Attorney General is of opinion that, strictly
speaking, there is a _prima facie_ case of manslaughter made out
against Inspector Lee, and that possibly a conviction might be
obtained, he advises against a prosecution. I do not concur with
the Attorney General in the reasons he gives for not instituting a
prosecution in this case."

During the year previous, 1876, Ordinance No. 2 had been passed,
depriving the Registrar General of the much-abused judicial powers
he had exercised since 1867, and transferring them to the police

Speaking of the incident of Tai Yau having sold her boy to pay her
fine, Governor Hennessy wrote the Colonial Office, under date of
December 6th, 1877:

"I am now informed that the Commissioners have obtained from the
records of the Registrar General's department and from Mr. Smith's
evidence the clearest proof that this practice of selling human
beings in Hong Kong was well known to the department. One of the
records has been shown to me in which a witness swears, 'I bought
the girl Chan Tsoi Lin and placed her in a brothel in Hong Kong';
and on that particular piece of evidence no action was taken by
the department."

Lord Carnarvon was Secretary of State for the Colonies at this time,
and his replies to Sir John Pope Hennessy were small encouragement to
the course the Governor had taken. He criticises his "somewhat unusual
course" in the appointment of a Commission "composed of private
persons to inquire into the administration of an important department
of the Government." He says: "I am unable to concur in the suggestion
made in your despatch as to the advisability of prosecuting Inspector
Lee." He implies that in his opinion "Inspector Lee was acting
strictly within his powers on this unfortunate occasion." "It is
quite possible," Lord Carnarvon continues, "that there may be abuses
connected with the Contagious Diseases Ordinance which ought to
be removed; but I would point out that such abuses arise from the
imperfections in the system as established by law.... While ready
to give consideration to the subject of amending the system, if
necessary, I fail at present to observe wherein the officers ... have
exceeded the duty imposed upon them by law."

From such responses as these we readily learn that it was not alone in
Hong Kong that these outrageous abuses of every principle of justice
in dealing with Chinese women failed to arouse more than a lukewarm
interest in their behalf, and all the way through Sir John Pope
Hennessy, with one or two notable exceptions, so far as the records
go, was shown but scant sympathy in his efforts to correct these

On April 2nd, 1878, Sir Harcourt Johnstone asked in the House of
Commons the Secretary of State for the Colonies, "whether his
attention has been directed to a recent outrage committed ... at Hong
Kong, which is now forming the subject of inquiry by a Commission
appointed by the Governor. And if he will cause special investigation
to be made as to the manner in which the revenue derived from
licensing houses of ill-fame is raised and expended for the service of
the Colony."

In answer to this question, the Commission reported that, "the monies
raised both by the licenses from houses of ill-fame, and from the
fines inflicted under the provisions of these Ordinances, have been
expended in the general services of the Colony; and that the actual
revenue derived from this source, since and including 1857 down to
the end of 1877, amounted to $187,508, to which must be added the
Admiralty allowance from 1870 to 1877, amounting to $28,860, and fines
estimated at $5,000, making a total of $221,368.00."

After July 1st, 1878, the fund derived from brothels was used for the
operation of the provisions of the Contagious Diseases Ordinance only.

Later, on July 28, 1882, Governor Hennessy received in London a large
deputation of gentlemen interested in the abolition of the Contagious
Diseases Ordinance of Hong Kong. To these he addressed the following
words descriptive of the condition of things at Hong Kong unearthed by
the Commission:

"I saw in the Colony abuses existing which have effect far beyond
the range of Hong Kong. Let me instance one or two only. We get
from Great Britain some European police. They are men selected
with care for good conduct, and they are sometimes married men;
their passages and their wives' passages have been paid to Hong
Kong, where married police quarters are provided. But what
transpired when that Commission was held? The Registrar General
had recorded in his book, morning after morning, the evidence of
informers _selected from that police force_, whom _he had employed
to commit adultery_ with unlicensed Chinese women; and borne of
these men were married police, whose wives were brought to Hong
Kong; so that in point of fact, he was _not only encouraging
adultery but paying for it with the money of the State_. Well, I
stopped that, of course.... At the head of the Registrar General's
Department in Hong Kong, we appoint an officer, as we believe, of
the highest character. One of the gentlemen so employed puts on a
false beard and moustache, he takes marked money in his waistcoat
pocket, and proceeds to the back lanes of the Colony, knocks at
various doors, and, at length, gains admission to a house. He
addresses the woman who opens the door and tells her he wants a
Chinese girl. There is an argument as to the price, and he agrees
to give four dollars. He is shown up to the room, and gives her
the money. What I am now telling you is the gentleman's own
evidence. He records how he flung up the window and put out his
head and whistled. The police whom he had in attendance in the
street, broke open the door and arrested the girl. She is brought
up the next day to be tried for the offence; but, before whom?
Before the Acting Registrar General--before the same gentleman
who had the beard and moustache the night before. He tries her
himself, and on the books of the Registrar General's office (I
have turned to them and read his own evidence recorded in his
own handwriting) there is his own conviction of the girl, of the
offence, and his sentence, that she be fined fifty dollars and
some months' imprisonment! I mention this for this reason--that
the officer who did this was appointed because he was supposed to
be a man of exceptionally high moral tone, and good conduct and
demeanour. But what would be the effect on any man having to
administer such an Ordinance? There was laid before my Legislative
Council a case of one of the European Inspectors of brothels, and
I was struck by this fact in his evidence. He says: 'I took the
marked money from the Registrar General's office, and followed a
woman, and consorted with her, and gave her the money; and the
moment I had done so, I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out
the badge of office, and pointed to the Crown, and arrested the
woman.' She was henceforth 'a Queen's woman'."



The justification for the passage of the Contagious Diseases Ordinance
at the beginning, as set forth in Mr. Labouchere's dispatch on the
27th of August, 1856, to Sir John Bowring was, that the "women" "held
in practical slavery" "through no choice of their own," "have an
urgent claim on the _active protection_ of Government." It has been
claimed again and again by officials at Hong Kong and Singapore that
protection is in large part the object and aim of the Ordinance. For
instance: In 1877, Administrator W.H. Marsh, of Hong Kong, learning
that there was a likelihood of the Contagious Diseases Ordinance being
disallowed by the Home Government, wrote to the Secretary of State for
the Colonies:

"It is the unanimous opinion of the Executive Council that the
laws now in existence have had, when they have been properly
worked, a most beneficial effect in this Colony ... in putting the
only practical check on a system of brothel slavery, under which
children were either sold by their parents, or more frequently
were kidnaped and sold to the proprietors of brothels. These
unfortunate girls were so fully convinced that they were the goods
and chattels of their purchasers, or were so terrified by
threats, that they rarely if ever made any complaints even when
interrogated. It was very seldom that sufficient evidence could be
obtained to punish such nefarious traffickers."

A document enclosed in this letter to the Colonial Secretary at
London, signed by the Acting Colonial Secretary at Hong Kong, the
Colonial Surgeon, and the Registrar General, states: "Perhaps the
strongest argument in favor of the Ordinances is the means they place
in the hands of the Government for coping with _brothel slavery_."
From the moment Mr. Labouchere put this false claim to the front
it has been the chief argument advanced by officials eager for the
Contagious Diseases Ordinance as a method of providing "clean women,"
in order to win to their side the benevolent-minded.

On this point the Commission reported: "In regard to the only result
worthy of a moment's consideration, viz., that referred to by Mr.
Labouchere's dispatch, of putting down the virtual slavery of women
in brothels, the conclusions of those in the best position to form
trustworthy opinions is not encouraging." Mr. Smith, who took over
charge of the Registrar General's office in October, 1864, and who had
many years of experience in that position, is quoted as saying: "I
think it is useless to try and deal with the question of the freedom
of Chinese prostitutes by law or by any Government regulation. From
all the surroundings the thing is impracticable." Mr. Lister, another
Registrar General, says: "I don't think the new Ordinance had any real
effect, or could have had any effect upon the sale of women. I don't
think any good is done by preventing women emigrating to San Francisco
or other places, as their fate is just the same whether they go or

The Commissioners state:

"The well-meant system devised by the Registrar General's
Department which requires every woman personally to appear before
an Inspector at the office, and declare her willingness to enter
a licensed brothel, and that she does so without coercion, before
she can be registered, may probably act as some check upon glaring
cases of kidnaping, so far as the licensed brothels are concerned.
But it seems clear that for the supply of such establishments,
there is no need to resort to kidnaping, in the ordinary
acceptance of the term. There can be no doubt that, with the
exception of a comparatively few who have been driven by adversity
to adopt a life of prostitution, when arrived at a mature age, the
bulk of the girls, in entering brothels, are merely fulfilling
the career for which they have been brought up, and even if they
resent it, a few minutes' conversation with a foreigner, probably
the first many of them have ever been brought into communication
with, is but little likely to lead them to stultify the results of
education, according to whose teachings they are the property of
others and under the necessity of obeying their directions. The
idea that they are at liberty not to enter a brothel unless they
wish it, must, to girls so brought up, be unintelligible. To what
other source indeed could they turn for a livelihood? Who can
tell, moreover, what hopes or aspirations have been instilled into
the minds of these girls? The life on which she is about to enter
has probably not been painted to her in its true colors. Why
should they shrink from it? As a matter of fact they never do....
Mr. Smith, however, thinks, with regard to these women, Government
supervision does ameliorate their condition somewhat. The women
are periodically seen in their houses by the inspectors, and the
cleanliness and comfort of the houses is carefully looked after.'
With the internal cleanliness and comfort of brothels, we think
the Government has little to do. But the amelioration of the
inmates is a matter which certainly stands on a different footing,
and is one in which the Government has a deep interest."

The Report goes on to state that the Commissioners do not endorse the
views of Mr. Smith as to the amelioration of the condition of
the inmates of brothels, through Governmental registration and
supervision, and states:

"Young girls, virgins of 13 or 14 years of age, are brought from
Canton or elsewhere and deflowered according to bargain, and, as
a regular business, for large sums of money, which go to their
owners.... The regular earnings of the girls go to the same
quarters, and the unfortunate creatures obviously form subjects
of speculation to regular traders in this kind of business, who
reside beyond our jurisdiction. In most of the regular houses, the
inmates are more or less in debt to the keepers, and though such
debts are not legally enforceable, a custom stronger than law
forbids the woman to leave the brothel until her debts are
liquidated, and it is only in rare cases that she does so." "As to
the brothel-keepers, there is nothing known against them, and they
are supported by capitalists. Mr. Lister speaks of them as 'a
horrible race of cruel women, cruel to the last degree, who use an
ingenious form of torture, which they call prevention of sleep,'
which he describes in detail.... It seems that although the
Brothel Ordinances did not call into being this 'horrible,'
'cruel,' and 'haughty' race of women, they have armed them with
obvious powers, which they would not otherwise have possessed,
and there is consequently reason to apprehend that Government
supervision accentuates in some respects rather than relieves the
hardships of the servitude of the inmates."

The records furnish many instances to prove that the Registrar
General's Department was not operated with the least idea of relieving
the slave from her bondage. These are culled from the court records.
We will condense some of them.

1. Three sisters were brought by their foster-mother from Macao
to Hong Kong, on the promise of a feast; they were taken to the
house of an old brothel-keeper, to whom the foster-mother sold the
girls, receiving ten dollars apiece for them, to bind the bargain,
and she went away, leaving the girls with this old woman, who
began immediately to urge them to become prostitutes; they cried
and refused, asking to be allowed to go to their foster-mother who
had brought them up,--not suspecting that they had been already
sold by her into shameful slavery. The old woman locked them up,
and beat one of the girls, who had resisted her cruel fate. Their
meals were all taken into the room where they were kept close
prisoners from that time. Brought into court, the foster-mother
was set at liberty, although the history was fully set forth, and
the old woman declared: "She pledged the girls in my house, by
receiving thirty dollars from me.... I have a witness who saw the
money paid." The brothel-keeper was convicted only of assault for
beating the girl, and sentenced to three months' imprisonment with
hard labor. No reference was made to her own admissions as
to buying these girls, and endeavoring to force them into
prostitution. Ten days later, her case was brought up again, and
the remaining portion of her sentence was remitted, and she was
fined twenty-five dollars. No record is made as to what became of
these hapless girls; it is to be assumed that they were sent back
to the brothel.

2. Two girls brought before the Registrar General, both of whom
pleaded for protection against their owner, stating that she
intended to sell them to go to California. One of these had been
bought by this woman for eighty dollars; the girl saw the price
paid for her; the other said her mother was very poor, and sold
her for twenty dollars. Each declared she had been living under
the "protection" of a foreigner until recently, and that she had
not "acted as a prostitute"; they now feared being "sold into
California" by the woman in charge. The Inspector said: "There has
been at times a number of women residing in the house, and I do
not know what has become of them. I believe that they have been
sent to California by the defendant." One of the girls being
recalled, and seeming to have gained courage, witnessed that she
had been in the house when several women had been brought there
and after some time had been sent away to California. She had been
present when bargains were struck for the women, the price being
various; bought here, the women cost from fifty to one hundred
and fifty dollars, and when sold in California they were to be
disposed of from two hundred and fifty to three hundred and fifty
each.[A] She said the woman had "made a great deal of money. She
has told me so." She also said some were unwilling to go, but were
afraid to resist. She said between ten and twenty women had passed
through the woman's hands, to her knowledge. The brothel-keeper's
reply was, that the last witness owed her money, and had taken
some ornaments which belonged to her--together with a denial that
she had bought anybody or sent anyone to California. What was the
outcome of this dreadful arraignment of crimes against Chinese
girls? The woman was "ordered to find security (two sureties of
$250 each) for her appearance in any court, for any purpose and at
any time within twelve months." No record as to the fate of the
two girls who had sought "protection" of the authorities.

[Footnote A: The market price of a Chinese girl at the present
time (1907) in California is $3000.]

3. Two young girls were found in a licensed house of shame, whose
names were not on the list, the keeper and a woman, Ho-a-ying,
who had brought the girls from Canton to Hong Kong, were summoned
before the Registrar General. Ho-a-ying represented the girls
as sisters, and that she visited them in Canton and found their
mother dead, and that she brought them to Hong Kong because of
their appeal to her to find them work, and that she put them into
defendant's brothel. She contradicted herself in her testimony
as to the name and house of the girls' mother, and the girls
themselves declared that they were not sisters, and had never seen
each other until they met on the steamer at Canton the day before.
One of the girls declared: "I was sold by Ho-a-ying to the
mistress of the brothel. I heard them talking about it, and so I
know it. Ho-a-Ying also told me that I had been sold. I do not
know for what sum." The brothel-keeper stated that Ho-a-Ying came
and asked if she wanted two girls, as she had two who had come
from Canton. "The girls were brought, and after being in the house
a short time the Inspector came. I purposed having their names
entered on the following morning." The brothel-keeper was fined
five dollars for keeping an incorrect list of inmates. Ho-a-Ying
was convicted of giving false testimony, and fined fifty dollars;
in default, three months' imprisonment. No information as to the
disposal of the girls, and no punishment for this bargaining in
human flesh.

4. Six Chinese persons from licensed brothel No. 71, Wellington
Street, were arraigned before the Registrar General, charged with
buying and selling girls for evil purposes, and also with selling
girls to go to California, and with disturbing the peace. The
Inspector described the house thus: "I found all the defendants
on the first floor. I found six girls in the house and three
children. The floor was very crowded ... four of the girls were
in a room by themselves at the back of the house. They were all
huddled up together, and seemed frightened. The defendants were
in the front part of the house. The girls at the back part of the
house could not have got out without passing through the room
where the defendants were. This house has been known to me for a
long time as one where young girls were kept to be shipped off to

A watch-repairer and jeweler who had resided opposite this place
for three or four years declared that he knew the first defendant,
A-Neung, and that she had lived there some years, on the first
floor; that he had seen a number of girls going in and out of
the house, seeming to arrive by steamer, some in chairs and some
walking, and that he knew from what he had seen of her and the
girls that she was a buyer and seller of girls. A carpenter living
below in the same house deposed: "I have always seen a number of
young girls being taken in and out of the house. The age of the
girls ranged from 10 to 20 years. There was always a great deal of
crying and groaning amongst the girls up-stairs. I have not heard
any beating, but the girls were constantly crying. The crying was
annoying to me and the other people in the shop. The people living
in the neighborhood have, together with myself, suspected that the
girls were bought and sold to go to California." Another neighbor
deposed to knowing the third defendant as "in the habit last year
of taking young girls of various ages, from 10 to 20, about the
Colony for sale. I knew this defendant wanted to sell the girls,
as she asked me if I knew any woman who wanted to buy them. She
comes from Canton." A girl from Wong-Po found in No. 71 brothel,
told of being taken to Canton at eleven years of age and sold by
her sister as a servant to the Lam family. After being in this
family three or four years, her mistress and the second defendant,
Tai-Ku, a relation of her mistress and daughter to the first
defendant (A-Neung, keeper of the brothel), took her to a
"flower-boat," and the next day by steamer to Hong Kong, and she
was taken to the house of A-Neung. Her mistress stayed in the
house three days, and sold her to the first and second defendants
(mother and daughter) for $120. She added: "This was in the tenth
month last year.... I was never allowed to go out. I have never
been out of the house since I came to Hong Kong [nearly six
months]. First, second and third defendants never went out of the
house together [some one always being on guard]. Last year Tai-Ku
and A-Neung told me that I should have to go to San Francisco.
This year I was again told that I was going to San Francisco. I
said I did not want to go. Tai-Ku then beat me." Another girl
only 19 years old, married about four years, declared that in
consequence of a quarrel between herself and another wife of her
husband, he sold her to Sz-Shan, fifth defendant, for $81, who
brought her from Tamshui by steamer to Hong Kong, and took her to
A-Neung's house, where she was being held for sale. She finished
her testimony thus: "Several men have been up to the house to see
me. They were going to buy me if they liked me." A letter was
produced by the Inspector, which he found in A-Neung's house, from
Canton to the writer's sister-in-law in Hong Kong, urging that as
the owner had lost money on the "present cargoes," a higher price
must be set on them and the sale hastened, as soon as the letter
should arrive, and word returned that they had been disposed of;
also directing that "after the transaction, one cue-tassel and one
shirting trouser" were to be taken back and sent to Canton by the
hand of a friend at first opportunity. (This as a pledge of good

A-Neung, first defendant, declared that she was "a widow,
supported by her son-in-law now in California. Mine is a family
house. The girls are visitors at my house." The second defendant,
Tai-Ku, daughter of the preceding, declared herself to be a
married woman, and that her husband was in California, on a
steamer; that the girls were not hers, and that she was "not in
the habit of sending girls to California." The third defendant
deposed that she came from Canton to ask A-Neung for some money,
and added: "I never buy and sell girls." Fourth defendant claimed
to be utterly ignorant of the girls being sent to California, and
said she was supported by Tai-Ku; the fifth defendant declared she
knew nothing of the buying and selling of girls; and the sixth
defendant claimed she had gone to the house to obtain the payment
of a debt; she was discharged.

The sentence was:--First, second, third, fourth and fifth
defendants to find two securities, householders, in $500 each,
to appear at any time within the next six months, to answer any
charge in any court in the Colony.

Whether the girls were sent to California to swell the number of
wretched slaves on the Pacific Coast, or remained in slavery in
Hong Kong, there is no record to be found; nor, even with abundant
evidence concerning this licensed brothel which the Inspector
himself declared he was long familiar with as a place "where young
girls were kept to be shipped off to California," and with the
evident collusion between A-Neung and Tai-Ku with the son-in-law
and husband respectively of the two women, situated most favorably
on a steamer for managing this wicked business at the California
end of the line, and with all the testimony of the neighbors and
the girls, yet no effort was made by the Registrar-General to
punish these people for trafficking in human flesh.

5. An old man complained before the Registrar-General, that his
granddaughter, A-Ho, had got into debt because of sickness, and in
order to pay the money, she was induced by an uncle of Su-a-Kiu to
apply to the latter for help. Su-a-Kiu promised to advance her the
money, $52, if A-Ho would serve her eight months in a brothel kept
by a "friend" of the woman in Singapore. A-Ho's stress was so
great that she entered into these hard terms, the woman paying her
$52 at the steamer, as it was going, and A-Ho handed it to her
grandfather to pay her debt. A-Ho left on the "26th of the 8th
moon" for Singapore. On the evening of "the fourth day of the 10th
moon" he received a letter from A-Ho to the effect that she had
been sold for $250, to another party. When the grandfather went
to Su-a-Kiu and asked her why she had sold his granddaughter, she
cajoled him by promising to take him to Singapore to see A-Ho.
Later, the man who lived with Su-a-Kiu, came and threatened to
accuse him of extortion, acknowledging of himself that he "lived
by selling women into brothels of Singapore." The grandfather
reported the case to the Registrar-General. The woman
Su-a-Kiu stated: "I took A-Ho to Singapore. I took her to the
"Sai-Shing-Tong Brothel" in Macao Street. She is still in that
brothel." The Registrar-General ordered her to find security in
the sum of $100 to appear to answer any charge within the next
three months. The grandfather was also ordered to find similar
security in the sum of $70.

The girl A-Ho, in seeking to pay her debt contracted through
sickness, by servitude for eight months, was entrapped and sold as
a slave for life, and the Registrar-General, when acquainted
with the facts, seems to have taken no steps to punish this
slave-trader. Governor Hennessey, in calling the attention of the
Home Government to these, out of many similar ones, says: "The
accompanying extracts from the printed evidence [taken by the
Commission] show that the Registrar-General's Department was not
ignorant of the fact that Chinese women were purchased for Hong
Kong brothels, and that the head of the Department thought it
useless to try to deal with the question of the freedom of such
women.... That the buying and selling was not confined to places
outside the Colony is clear from the evidence of other witnesses,
and from the notes of cases taken by the Registrar-General
himself. It will also be seen that where the persons guilty of
such offences were sometimes punished, it was generally for some
minor offence, such as not keeping a correct list of inmates, or
for an assault."

Doubtless slavery would spring into prominence in almost any land
when once it became known that in places actually licensed by
Government, such as were the houses of ill-fame at Hong Kong,
where the inspectors made almost daily visits, slaves could be
held with impunity, and that when slave girls made a complaint,
and their cases were actually brought into court, charging the
buying and selling of human beings, the officers of the law would
ignore the complaints.



The Registrar General was not the only official at Hong Kong who did
not believe in the extermination of slavery, as we shall proceed
to show, although the Governor had strong sympathy from the Chief

On May 30th, 1879, Sir John Smale, Chief Justice of the Colony of Hong
Kong, wrote a letter for the information of the Governor, Sir John
Pope Hennessy, to the effect that he had sentenced, on the previous
day, two poor women to imprisonment with hard labor, for detaining
a boy 13 years old. The women sold the little boy to a druggist for
$17.50. The relatives traced their lost boy, came from Canton and
claimed him, but the druggist refused to give him up, producing a
bill of sale, and the boy was not given up until they appeared in the
police court. The Chief Justice adds:

"I am satisfied from the evidence that the great criminal is this
druggist, and that it is an opprobrium to the administration of
justice to punish these poor women as I have done, and allow the
druggist to escape. I therefore ask His Excellency to direct that
proceedings be forthwith taken against the man, and that the case
be conducted at the magistracy by the Crown Solicitor, so that he
may be committed for trial before the Supreme Court."

He then speaks of a case of a woman whom he sentenced on May 6th,
1879, to two years' imprisonment with hard labor for stealing a female
child. He adds:

"The woman was merely a middle woman, and received a small sum,
but it came out in the evidence that Leung A-Luk had bought the
child for $53, and was actually confining her in a room where
the child was discovered. She was the great criminal. It is an
opprobrium to justice to punish this poor woman, and to allow
Leung A-Luk to go unpunished. I am aware that, according to
precedents here and at home, it is within the province of the
presiding judge to direct prosecutions such as these to be
instituted, but I think it more convenient to ask His Excellency,
as the head of the Executive (whose province it especially is to
originate criminal proceedings) to direct prosecution. To let
these chief offenders go unprosecuted, and to punish such
miserable creatures, exposes the court to the contempt of the
community, and tends to destroy all respect for the administration
of justice in the Chinese community."

Accordingly the Governor forwarded this request on the part of the
Chief Justice to the Attorney General, saying: "It is clear from the
evidence and from documents published by the Contagious Diseases
Commission that practices of this kind have prevailed unchecked, or
almost unchecked, for many years past in this Colony." The Governor
then referred to a case in point that he had submitted to the former
Attorney General, but he "did not seem disposed to enforce the rights
of the father, on the ground that he had sold the child." The Governor
concludes: "I did not agree with his view of the law."

The last case was referred back to the Acting Police Magistrate to
know why the woman, Leung A-Luk, was allowed to go unprosecuted. The
Police Magistrate replied: "It appeared to me that 4th defendant
(Leung A-Luk) being a well-to-do woman, and having no children of her
own, had purchased the girl with a view to adopting her." He adds:
"When Acting Superintendent of Police last year, I wished to prosecute
a man for detaining a child ... but as it was shown that the boy had
been sold by his father some months previously, the Attorney General
considered the purchaser was _in loco parentis_, [in the place of a
parent] and could not be purchased."

On the two cases to which the attention of the Governor had been
brought, the Attorney General reported:

"With the greatest respect for the Chief Justice, I doubt the
policy of prosecuting the woman he refers to, having regard to the
fact that the magistrate had discharged her for want of testimony,
and looking to his further report. The magistrate should always be
supported if possible; and if he discharged the woman, and put her
at the bar as a witness, and she was used again at the Supreme
Court, it might look like a breach of good faith to treat her now
as a criminal.... As to the druggist's case, I think that the only
thing that can be said is that it would look to be a breach of
faith to proceed against him now."

When the case was referred to the Crown Solicitor, he said:

"As to the druggist the parties had now left the Colony, and there
were no witnesses against him. The purchase by Chinese of young
orphans, and indeed of others whose parents are too poor to keep
them, is a social custom amongst the natives, and is of constant
occurrence in Hong Kong. These 'pocket-children,' as they are
usually termed, are often treated with great affection, and are
far better off than they were previous to their being so bought."

It was the 30th of May when the Chief Justice called the Governor's
attention to these cases. It was July before the Attorney General and
the Crown Solicitor seem to have paid any attention to the cases. It
was no wonder, then, that some of the witnesses could not be found.
Meanwhile the Governor had left the Colony for a trip to Japan, and
W.H. Marsh was acting in his place. On July 16th, he returned answer
to the Chief Justice that he had now received a report on the cases
from the Attorney General, the committing magistrate and the Crown
Solicitor, and

"I regret to inform you that ... I do not see my way to directing
the prosecutions of the two persons indicated by you; first ...
because I do not agree with you in looking upon them as the
principal criminals; and, secondly, because I think that after
the evidence of these persons has been taken both before the
committing magistrate and the Supreme Court without any warning
having been given them that their evidence might be used against
them, it would appear like a breach of faith to treat them now as
criminals." "Should the prosecution of these persons result in
their acquittal, which seems to me not improbable, I fear that the
good effect produced by the severe reprimand, which I understand
that your Honor administered publicly to all the parties concerned
in these two cases, might be to a great extent neutralized." (!)

On September 29th, 1879, the Chief Justice sentenced more criminals
for trafficking in children. A Japanese girl, Sui Ahing, eleven years
old, was brought to the Colony by a Chinaman who had bought the child
in Japan of its parents. Needing money to go on to his native place,
this Chinaman borrowed $50 of a native resident at Hong Kong, and
left the child as security for the debt. The wife of the man in whose
custody the child was left beat the child severely and she ran out of
the house. She was found wandering on the street late at night,
and the finder took her and sold her to another Chinese party, who
threatened to send her to Singapore as a prostitute. It was plain the
last purchaser intended either to send her to Singapore or keep her at
Hong Kong for vile purposes. This case illustrates well the frequency
with which children are sold and re-sold in that country. The parties
to the last transaction, the finder of the child and the purchaser of
the child from the finder, were both found guilty, one of selling,
the other of buying a child for the purposes of prostitution. His
Lordship, the Chief Justice, said:

"I will call upon the prisoners at another time. This is a case
of far larger proportions than the guilt or innocence of the two
prisoners at the bar. I take shame to myself that the appalling
extent of kidnaping, buying and selling slaves for what I may
call ordinary servile purposes, and the buying and selling young
females for worse than ordinary slavery, has not presented itself
before to me in the light it ought. It seems to me that it has
been recognized and accepted as an ordinary out-turn of Chinese
habits, and thus that until special attention has been excited it
has escaped public notice. But recently the abomination has forced
itself on my notice. In some cases convictions have been had; in
two notable instances, although I called for prosecution, the
criminals escaped. They were Chinese in respectable positions,
and I was given to understand that buying children by respectable
Chinamen as servants was according to Chinese customs, and that to
attempt to put it down would be to arouse the prejudices of the
Chinese. The practice is on the increase. It is in this port,
and in this Colony especially, that the so-called Chinese custom
prevails. Under the English flag, slavery, it has been said, does
not, cannot ever be. Under that flag it does exist in this Colony,
and is, I believe, at this moment more openly practiced than at
any former period of its history. Cyprus has been under our rule
for about a year, and already, both in the House of Commons and in
the House of Lords, questions have been asked, and the Members
of the present Ministry have assured the country that slavery in
every form shall be speedily put down there. Humanity is of no
party, and personal liberty is held to be the right of every human
being under English law, by, I believe, every man of note in
England. My recent pleasant personal experience in England assures
me of that. But here in Hong Kong, I believe that domestic slavery
exists in fact to a great extent. Whatever the law of China may
be, the law of England must prevail here. If Chinamen are willing
to submit to the law, they may remain, but on condition of obeying
the law, whether it accords with their notions of right or wrong
or not; and, if remaining they act contrary to the law, they must
take the consequences.... I shall deal with these people when I
shall have more fully considered the case."

During the proceedings of the trial of these two prisoners, the
Attorney General had declared his intention not to call the former
owners of the child, Wai Alan, the woman who beat the child, or Pao
Chee Wan, her husband. The Chief Justice now said:

"I now direct you, Mr. Attorney General, to prosecute these two
people, Pao Chee Wan and Wai Alan." Attorney General:--"My Lord,
I intimated before that this matter was under consideration; I do
not think I am at liberty to say under whose consideration."
His Lordship:--"I direct the prosecution, and will take the
responsibility. It is the course in England and I will pursue it
here." The Attorney General:--"You have publicly directed it;
and I will report it to the proper quarter." His Lordship:--"The
Attorney General at home is constantly ordered by the Court to
prosecute. On my responsibility alone I do this." The Attorney
General:--"May I ask your Lordship to say on what charge?" His
Lordship:--"Under Sections 50 and 51 of No. 4 of 1865, and also
for assault." The Attorney General continued to raise objections,
when the Chief Justice said: "I have said as much as I choose to
say, and I will not be put to question by the Attorney General. If
you have any difficulty, come to the Court in Chambers."

Governor Hennessy, in reporting the incident to the Secretary of State
at London, adds: "I sent a note to the Attorney General, saying I
thought that the prosecution suggested by the Chief Justice should
take place; but it was found that the accused parties were not in the
Colony." After this manner many cases brought to the attention of the
officers of the law by parents or guardians of children of kidnaping
and trading in girls and children failed to secure the attention they
deserved. It seems to us not at all amazing, when one reads this past
history, that by the time Chinese girls have seen and learned all that
they must in the Colony of Hong Kong, when brought to this country
they are utterly incredulous as to the good faith of police and other
officials. They must enter a complaint at the risk of their lives, and
if the officer of the law will not prosecute the case in spite of all
its difficulties (which are largely imaginary on the part of lukewarm
officials), then the girl must be returned to the master she has
informed against, to be in his power for him to vent his wrath upon
her. A case in point occurred in Oakland only a few months ago, and we
had a chance to interview the girl. The Captain of Police went through
the brothels of Oakland's Chinatown, accompanied by some missionary
ladies, in order to discover if possible any girls who would
acknowledge that they wished to come away. Every girl was questioned,
in the absence of the keepers, and not one, or perhaps only one, said
she wished to come away. There were some one hundred and fifty Chinese
slave girls in Oakland at this time, and one might say they all had a
chance to escape, and of their own will chose to remain. But was that
the truth? Not at all; the result did not prove at all that one, and
only one wished to come away. It proved merely that only one was
inspired with sufficient confidence and courage, after her long,
hard experience with foreigners, to _say what she wished._ It is the
universal testimony of all the girls who have been rescued, so we have
been told, by those who have been engaged in this rescue work for many
years--that every slave in Chinatown plans and dreams of nothing else
but of the day when, having served long enough to buy her freedom,
she will be granted it by her master or mistress, and then she can be
honorably married. But unless her freedom is purchased for her by some
lover, the cases are rare, indeed, that a girl is allowed to earn her
own freedom, though they are kept submissive by constant promises that
the goal is just ahead of them. A few days after the Oakland papers
had triumphantly asserted that it had been demonstrated that there was
not a single slave girl in Chinatown--a statement that everyone
who had any intelligence on the subject, including the newspapers
themselves, knew to be false--a lady in mission work received a
cautious hint in a round-about way that one of the girls she had seen
when the rounds were made desired to be set at liberty. "How did you
learn this?" we eagerly and quite naturally asked the missionary.
She replied that on no account could she tell a human being how the
intelligence was conveyed to her, as it might cost others very dearly,
even to the sacrifice of life, if the knowledge leaked out. "But," she
said, "I will show you the girl and you may talk with her yourselves."
We gathered from the girl that she was a respectable widow, the mother
of two children, living with her parents not far from Hong Kong on the
mainland. As they were very poor, she went to Hong Kong to work at
sewing to help support the family. An acquaintance there told her
that she could earn as much as thirty dollars a month at sewing in
California, and he could secure her passage for her at economical
cost. She returned to her home and consulted her parents, and they
thought the chance a good one, so bidding her little ones good bye,
she returned to Hong Kong and paid for the ticket, being instructed
that a certain woman would meet her at the wharf at San Francisco whom
she must claim as her "mother," since the immigration laws were so
strict that she must pass herself off as the daughter of this woman
(for this daughter, who was now in China, having lived in the United
States was entitled to return to her mother). Reader, have you ever
traveled on another's ticket? If so, or if you have known a professing
Christian to have done so, do not be too harsh in your judgment of
this heathen, and declare she deserved the terrible fate that overtook
her. The "mother" met the sewing-woman, brought her to Oakland, and
imprisoned her in a horrible den to earn money for her. With utmost
caution our missionary friend rescued her. The Captain of Police and
other officers were at hand to help the missionary, and when the girl
was taken, she struggled frantically and called for help as though
being kidnaped. Had the policemen been there alone they would have let
the captors have their slave, believing they had made a mistake. But
they had not; the missionary knew that; the girl was only thinking
ahead of the possibility of the plot failing and of falling back into
the hands of her captors. She must never betray to them, until safely
out of their clutches, that she _wished_ to come away. She must make
it appear that she was dragged away against her will. And this is free
America! Do you wonder that these girls do not tell everybody who asks
them that they are unwilling captives? Doubtless they would if our
officers of the law showed their good faith by laying hold of these
slave dealers. Nothing was done or attempted to punish the horrible
creatures who captured this girl. They are going on unmolested
with their nefarious business, though many of them could be easily
punished. This part of the work--punishing slave-dealers--has never
been taken up seriously here on the Pacific Coast. And until these
terrible criminals are immured in prison, most certainly these Chinese
slave girls will not declare their desire for freedom, for if it were
granted them they would not be safe--at least they have no reason to
believe they would be, though there are missions where they would be
protected. But what reason have they for believing this is the case,
after the years of training they have had in the perfidy of all those
with whom they come in contact! Many girls have been rescued on this
Pacific Coast, by brave missionary workers. But it is to the lasting
shame of our country that such wicked creatures are allowed to exist
here to import these slaves. Imprison the importers, and the slaves
are rescued. That is the short road to freedom. But that was not the
path pursued by officials in general at Hong Kong, nor is that course
being pursued in the United States. This sewing woman has been
returned to her home. Many another woman has at equal peril to herself
made her complaint and it has fallen upon the deaf ears of officials,
and the poor slave has had to settle with her masters for her

Now we will return to Hong Kong, and to past history. We will cite
just one more case to show something of the reluctance of officials
there to prosecute the traffickers in human flesh. A Chinaman, Tsang
San-Fat, petitioned the Colonial Secretary at Hong Kong in regard to
the custody of his little daughter, whom, "under stress of poverty,"
he had given away to a man named Leung A-Tsit, the October previous,
the understanding being that the latter should find her a husband when
she grew up, and should not send her away to other ports. In May the
parents learned from A-Sin, employed by Leung A-Tsit, that the latter
was going to take away the little girl to another place. After taxing
the man with this, and receiving only excuses in reply, the father
petitioned that Leung A-Tsit should be prevented from carrying out
his design. Leung A-Tsit filed a counter-petition, stating that Tsang
San-Fat, being unable to support a family, handed over to him his
little daughter, aged six years; that the little girl was to become
his daughter and to be brought up by him, he paying $23 to the
parents. He accused the father of trying to extort money from him, and
appealed for "protection" from "impending calamities." Later, further
facts came out, showing that the father of the child had borrowed $5
three years before from Leung A-Tsit, which, with interest at ten
cents per month for every dollar, now amounted to $23. The September
before, his creditor came and demanded payment, and when the father
told him he had no money, and found it very difficult to provide
for his family, Leung A-Tsit said: "Very well, you can give me your
daughter instead, and when she is grown up I will find her a husband."
It was finally agreed that he should have the little girl for $25,
viz., the $23 already owing, and $2 to the mother as "tea-money." The
$2 were paid and he took the child away. The mother said: "I was very
sorry about it and cried." (But mothers have little to say as to the
disposal of the children they bear in the Orient). The Governor, Sir
John Pope Hennessy, took a deep interest in this case, when he heard
of it, regarding it as "an illegal transaction," and urged upon the
Attorney General, Mr. G. Phillipo, to prosecute, on his behalf, the
purchaser of the girl, and that both the father of the child and
Leung A-Tsit be notified that the father was entitled to the child by
British law, and referring the father to the police magistrate.
The police magistrate requested of the Colonial Secretary that
the Attorney General's opinion be obtained, as to what course the
magistrate should pursue. The final outcome of the case is told by
Governor Hennessy in a despatch to the Secretary of State for the

"I made a minute on the petitions, directing them to be sent to
the Attorney General, as 'the parties appear to acknowledge being
concerned in an illegal transaction.' In a few days the papers
were returned to me with the following opinion of the Attorney
General: 'The transaction referred to would not be recognized in
our laws as giving any rights, except perhaps as to guardianship,
but I am unable to say there is anything illegal in the matter
beyond that. I do not think it a criminal offence if it goes no
further than the adoption of a child and the payment of money to
its parents for the privilege.'"

Later, when His Excellency was calling the attention of Acting
Attorney General Russell to a somewhat similar case, he states, in
reference to this above-described case:

"Mr. Phillipo, before whom the papers were laid, did not seem
disposed to enforce the rights of the father, on the ground that
he had sold the child. I did not agree with Mr. Phillipo's view of
the law."



On October 6th, 1879, Sir John Smale, the Hon. Chief Justice for Hong
Kong, passed judgment in three cases on prisoners convicted of various
degrees of crime connected with the enticing, detaining, buying and
selling of children. Governor Hennessy, in reporting the remarks made
by the Chief Justice on that occasion to the Secretary of State for
the Colonies, pronounced it "an able and elaborate judgment on the
existence of slavery at Hong Kong."

Said Sir John Smale:

"Various 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 prostitution. The three cases now
awaiting the sentence of the Court are specially provided for by
Ordinances of 1865 and 1872, prohibiting kidnaping and illegally
detaining men, women, and children; and no difficulty ever arose
in my 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, especially 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. I hold
in my hand a placard in Chinese, torn down from the wall of the
Central School, Cough Street steps, in this city. The translation
appears at length in the Hong Kong _Daily Press of_ August
15th, 1879. The purport of that translation is shortly that the
advertiser, one Cheong, has lost 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, 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
recognized 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
neighborhood, and have been in all probability read--they ought
to have been, they must have been read--by scores of our Chinese

"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 estimated that the slave population has reached ten
thousand souls! I first became 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.... But it is said that
what is called domestic slavery, as it exists in Hong Kong, is
mild, and it is said to be the opinion of a gentleman of great
experience in Chinese, that, as it exists here, it is not contrary
to the Christian religion, and that it is as general a fashion
for Chinese ladies in Hong Kong to purchase one or more girls to
attend on them as it is for English ladies to hire ladies'
maids, and that the custom is so general that it would be highly
impolitic, if not impossible, to put down the system. It may be
that slavery as it exists in the houses of the better classes
in Hong Kong is mild, and that custom among the better classes
renders servitude to them a boon as long as it lasts. It 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 another 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 remunerative price to
the brute, the master. It seems to me that all slavery, domestic,
agrarian, or for immoral purposes, comes within one and the same

Every word uttered on this occasion by Sir John Smale, Chief Justice,
has value, but it is impossible for us to quote it all. Referring to
the purchase of kidnaped children from the kidnapers by well-to-do
Chinese residents of Hong Kong, without effort on the part of these
purchasers to ascertain from whence the children came, he says:

"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 kidnaping,
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 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 system had been almost if not altogether unchecked for
many years past, and that in particular, when 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."

He relates the details of yet another case concerning which he says:
"I took the responsibility to direct the Acting Attorney General to
prosecute this man and his wife." But the Attorney General, it seems,
did not.

"Is it possible that such a being as man can, according to law ...
become a slave even by his own consent?" asks the Chief Justice.
"I say it is impossible in law, as Sir R. Phillimore, 1 Phill.,
International Law, vol. 1, p. 316, has said in a passage I read with
the most respectful concurrence, but too long for full quotation." "It
is unnecessary for me to trace how it became the Common Law of England
that whosoever breathes the air of England cannot be a slave." After
reference to notable decisions on the part of England's highest
authorities as to the unlawfulness of slavery; to the claim that
slavery was secured to the Chinese residents by the promise not to
interfere with their customs, and reminding his hearers that the
promise was made only "pending Her Majesty's pleasure"; after quoting
the Queen's proclamation against slavery at Hong Kong, and the
assurance in that proclamation that "these Acts will be enforced by
all Her Majesty's officers, civil and military, within this Colony,"
he asks:

"Have all Her Majesty's officers, civil and military, enforced
these Acts within this Colony? I think they have not; I confess I
have not. Our excuse has been in the difficulty of 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 within 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?"

Then he deals with the pretext that this slavery is Chinese custom,
in words we have already quoted in the first chapter of this book. He
passes on to consider and affirm the propriety of the Chief Justice
directing the Attorney General to prosecute these cases, and answers
some of the objections raised by the latter officer, concluding this
portion of his remarks with the words: "What I have said has been
said to meet arguments, doubts, and difficulties which have paralyzed
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."

The Chief Justice then sentenced several prisoners for enticing,
kidnaping or detaining children with intent to sell them into slavery,
to penal servitude for terms ranging from 18 months to 2 years.

On October 20th, Sir John Smale wrote the Governor:

"I cannot understand why such classes should as classes increase
in this Colony at all, unless it be that (in addition to the
Chinese demand for domestic servants and brothels) there be an
increased foreign element increasing the demand. I fear that a
high premium is obtained by persons who kidnap girls in the high
prices which they realize on sale to foreigners as kept women.[A]
No one can walk through some of the bye-streets in this Colony
without seeing well dressed China girls in great numbers whose
occupations are self-proclaimed; or pass those streets, or go into
the schools in this Colony, without counting beautiful children
by the hundred whose Eurasian origin is self-declared. If the
Government would inquire into the present condition of these
classes, and still more, into what has become of these women and
their children of the past, I believe that it will be found that
in the great majority of cases the women have sunk into misery,
and that of the children the girls that have survived have been
sold to the profession of their mothers, and that, if boys, they
have been lost sight of or have sunk into the condition of the
mean whites of the late slave-holding states of America. The more
I penetrate below the polished surface of our civilization the
more convinced am I that the broad undercurrent of life here is
more like that in the Southern States of America, when slavery
was dominant, than it resembles the all-pervading civilization of
England." "My suggestion that the mild intervention of the law
should be invoked was ignored. It was also met by the assertion
that custom had so sanctioned the evils in this Colony as that
they are above the reach of the law, and that by custom the
slavery was mild."

[Footnote A: Rather, it would seem in later years, by renting them for
a monthly stipend.]

The Governor, in a letter to the Colonial Secretary at London about
this time, informs the Colonial Secretary of his own failure also to
induce the Attorney General to prosecute cases to which His Excellency
had called his attention, and furthermore he explains that other
of his principal executive officers held to the same views as the
Attorney General.



We get additional and valuable light on social conditions at Hong
Kong, through statements drawn up by prominent Chinese men and laid
before the Governor. As a representation from the Chinese standpoint
it has peculiar value at all points excepting where self-interest
might afford a motive for coloring the truth.

The occasion of these statements was as follows: On November 9, 1878,
a month before the report of the Commission was published, certain
Chinese merchants had petitioned the Governor to be allowed to form
themselves into a society for suppressing kidnaping and trafficking
in human beings. This petition states that the worst kidnapers are
"go-betweens and old women who have houses for the detention of
kidnaped people." They declare that these

"inveigle virtuous women or girls to come to Hong Kong, at first
deceiving them by the promise of finding them employment (as
domestic servants), and then proceeding to compel them by force
to become prostitutes, or exporting them to a foreign port, or
distribute them by sale over the different ports of China, boys
being sold to become adopted children, girls being sold to be
trained for prostitution." "Your petitioners are of opinion
that such wicked people are to be found belonging to any of the
[neighboring] districts, but in our district of Tung Kun such
cases of kidnaping are comparatively frequent, and all the
merchants of Hong Kong, without exception, are expressing their

Accompanying the petition was a statement of the situation:

"Hong Kong is the emporium and thoroughfare of all the neighboring
ports. Therefore these kidnapers frequent Hong Kong much, it being
a place where it is easy to buy and to sell, and where effective
means are at hand to make good a speedy escape. Now, the laws
of Hong Kong being based on the principle of the liberty of the
person, the kidnapers take advantage of this to further their own
plans. Thus they use with their victims honeyed speeches, and give
them trifling profits, or they use threats and stern words, all in
order to induce them to say they are willing to do so and so. Even
if they are confronted with witnesses it is difficult to show up
their wicked game.... Kidnaping is a crime to be found everwhere,
but there is no place where it is more rife than at Hong Kong....
Now it is proposed to publish everywhere offers of reward to track
such kidnapers and have them arrested.... The crimes of kidnaping
are increasing from day to day."

This proposal on the part of Chinese merchants to form such a society
was cordially accepted by officials, and the Governor requested that
two police magistrates, whom he named, the Captain Superintendent of
Police and Dr. Eitel, should draw up a scheme to check kidnaping, in
concert with the Chinese petitioners. This committee met, and decided
that the objects of the "Chinese Society for the Protection of Women
and Children" should he as follows:

1. The detection and suppression of kidnapers and kidnaping. 2.
The restoration to their homes of women and children decoyed
or kidnaped for prostitution, emigration, or slavery. 3. The
maintenance of women and children pending investigation and
restoration to their homes. 4. Undertaking to marry or set out in
life women and children who could not safely be returned home.

At a subsequent meeting of these gentlemen, Mr. Francis, Acting Police
Magistrate, asked the Chinese merchants present, "If there was of late
any special _modus operandi_ observed in the proceedings of kidnapers
differing from what had been observed and known formerly?" To this
the Chinese gentlemen present replied that "there was indeed a marked
difference observable in the proceedings of kidnapers of late, because
they had become acquainted with the loopholes British law leaves open,
also with the principle of personal freedom jealously guarded by
British law, and that through this knowledge their proceedings had
not only become less tangible for the police to deal with, but
the kidnapers had been emboldened to give themselves a definite
organization, following a regular system adapted to the peculiarities
of British and Chinese law, and using regular resorts and depots in
the suburbs of Hong Kong." In support of this, Mr. Fung Ming-shan laid
on the table two documents written in Chinese. One of these contained
a list of 38 different houses in the neighborhood of Sai-ying-pim and
Tai-ping-shan used by professional kidnapers, whose names are given,
but whose residence could not be ascertained. The other document
consists of a list of 41 professional kidnapers whose personalia have
been satisfactorily ascertained.

The foreign Magistrates present then pointed out to the Chinese
members of the meeting that one great difficulty the Government
frequently met in dealing with such cases was the question, what to do
with women or children found to have been unlawfully sold or kidnaped;
how to restore them to their lawful guardians in the interior of
China; how to provide for them in case such women or children had
actually been sold by their very guardians, who, if the woman or child
in question were restored to them, would but seek another purchaser;
how to deal with persons absolutely friendless, etc. The Chinese
members of the meeting replied that they were prepared to undertake
this duty. They would employ trustworthy detectives to ascertain the
family relations of any kidnaped person, who would see to such persons
being restored to their families upon guarantee being given for proper
treatment; and in cases where restoration was impossible or not
advisable, they would take charge of such kidnaped persons, maintain
them, and eventually see them respectably married. It was then decided
that the Magistrates present should draw up a succinct statement of
the provisions of the British law forbidding the sale of persons and
guaranteeing the liberty of the subject, which should be translated
into Chinese, and circulated freely in the neighboring districts.

Although the action on the part of the Chinese merchants in forming
themselves into an organization to put down kidnaping was received
with much appreciation by the Governor and Secretary of State at
London, as well as by many of the officials at Hon' Kong, there were
those who from the first doubted whether the motives of the Chinese in
thus uniting were wholly disinterested on the part of the majority.
Such were confirmed in their doubts by the action of these same
Chinese as soon as Sir John Smale set to work in earnest to
exterminate slavery, and declared in his court a year later than the
formation of this Chinese Society:

"I was given to understand that buying children by respectable
Chinamen as servants was according to Chinese customs, and that to
attempt to put it down would be to arouse the prejudices of the
Chinese.... Humanity is of no party, and personal liberty is to be
held the right of every human being under British law.... Whatever
the law of China may be, the law of England must prevail here. If
Chinamen are willing to submit to the law, they may remain, but
on condition of obeying the law, whether it accords with their
notions of right or wrong or not; and if remaining they act
contrary to the law, they must take the consequences."

Sir John Smale's utterance created intense feeling among these Chinese
merchants, who at once called upon the Governor to represent their
views and to protest. The Governor informed them that "slavery in any
form could not be allowed in the Colony." They protested that their
system of adoption and of obtaining girls for domestic purposes was
not slavery; "and they referred to the more immoral practice of buying
girls for the Hong Kong brothels, which, they alleged, Government
departments had connived at, though it was a practice most hateful to
the respectable Chinese." The Governor then asked them for their views
in writing, and they sent them to him in the form of a memorial,
containing the following words:

"Your petitioners are informed that his Lordship, the Chief
Justice, after the trial of a case of purchasing free persons for
prostitution, said, in the course of his judgment, that buying
and selling of girls for domestic servitude was an indictable
offense;--which put all native residents of Hong Kong in a state
of extreme terror; all great merchants and wealthy residents in
the first instance being afraid lest they might incur the risk of
being found guilty of a statutory offence, whilst the poor and low
class people, in the second instance, feared being deprived of a
means to preserve their lives (by selling children to be domestic

These petitioners claimed:

That the buying of boys for "adoption" and of girls for domestic
servitude, "widely differs from the above-mentioned wicked
practices" of kidnaping and buying and selling of girls into

That the domestic slaves "are allowed to take their ease and have
no hard work to perform," and when they grow up, "they have to be
given in marriage."

That all former Governors had let them alone in the exercise of
their "social customs."

That Governor Elliott had promised them freedom in the exercise of
their native customs.

That infanticide "would be extremely increased if it were entirely
forbidden to dispose of children by buying and selling;" parents
deprived of the means of keeping off starvation by selling their
children would "drift into thiefdom and brigandage."

Following the petition was an elaborate statement on the subject,
full of subtle arguments, misstatements and perversions, together, of
course, with some well-put statements, forming ten propositions in
favor of domestic slavery. Their first claim is not exactly true, as
even Dr. Eitel, who defended domestic servitude, was bound to declare,
namely, That Chinese law does not forbid adoption and domestic
servitude. We have already quoted Sir John Smale's statement of the
Chinese law, which restricted the adoption of boys to the taking of
one with the same surname as the family. And as to the buying of girls
for domestic servitude, though largely _practiced_ in China, yet these
Chinese merchants could hardly have been ignorant of the fact that it
was an _illegality_ before the Chinese law. "The reason of this," says
the Chinese protest, "is the excessive increase of population, and
the wide extent of poverty and distress." But there was neither
over-population nor distress at Hong Kong which should necessitate the
introduction of the practice into that Colony. "If all those practices
were forbidden, poor and distressed people would have no means left
to save their lives, but would be compelled to sit down and wait for
death." In other words, these men would claim that their motives were
wholly, or largely benevolent in purchasing the children of the poor!
And what better could the poor do for a living than to beget children
and sell them into slavery to the rich!

"Whilst all those practices, therefore, may be classed together
as buying and selling (of free persons), it is yet requisite to
distinguish carefully the good or wicked purposes which each class of
practice serve, and accordingly apply discriminately either punishment
or non-punishment." But anti-slavery legislation has never done this,
and never will. The question is not to any large extent the comfort or
misery of the chattel, but the forbidding that one human being should
be allowed to deal with another _as a chattel_ at all.

This attitude of the Chinese merchants who allied themselves with the
British officials for the Protection of Women and Children gave no
omen of good from the very first. Yet from that day to the present
these men have had a large share in the government of the native
women of Hong Kong and Singapore, rendering it very difficult ever
to elevate the standard of womanhood, or to educate Chinese women in
principles that should be the common inheritance of all who live in a
so called free country.

The statement continues:

"Since the last few years many Chinese have brought their
property, wives and families to the place, supposing they would
be able to live here in peace, and to rejoice in their property.
...Chinese residents of Hong Kong have, therefore, been in
the habit of following all native customs which were not a
contravention of Chinese statute law [but it seems _this sort_ of
buying and selling of human beings is contrary to Chinese law.
This is a misrepresentation]. It is said that the whole increase
and prosperity of the Colony from its first foundation to the
present day is all based on the strength of that invitation which
Sir Charles Elliott gave to intending settlers, and that this
present intention of applying, all of a sudden, the repressive
force of the law to both the practice of buying or selling boys or
girls for purposes of adoption or for domestic servitude is not
only a violation of the rule of Sir Charles Elliott, but moreover
will, it is to be feared, not fail to trouble the people."

They speak of infanticide as an evil that

"must be classed with evils almost unavoidable. Now if the buying
of adoptive children and of servant girls is to be uniformly
abolished, it is to be feared that henceforth the practice of
infanticide will extremely increase beyond what it ever was. The
heinousness of the violation of the great Creator's benevolence,
which constitutes infanticide, is beyond comparison with the
indulgence granted to the system of buying and selling children to
prolong their existence."

As though these benevolent persons only bought slaves for this one
laudable purpose, to preserve their lives! "As regards the buyers,
they look upon themselves as affording relief to distressed people,
and consider the matter as an act akin to charity," etc.

A flood of light is let in upon the matter of the reluctance of
British officials to move in the putting down of domestic slavery and
the buying and selling of boys among the natives, in the following
well-deserved thrust at the weak point in the armor of the British

"The office of the Registrar-General was charged with the
superintendence of prostitutes and the licensing of brothels
and similar affairs. But _from 80 to 90 per cent of all these
prostitutes in Hong Kong were brought into these brothels by
purchase, as is well known to everybody_. If buying and selling is
a matter of a criminal character, the proper thing would be, first
of all, to abolish this evil (brothel slavery). But how comes
it that since the first establishment of the Colony down to the
present day the same old practice prevails in these licensed
brothels, and has never been forbidden or abolished?"

This was a center shot, and calculated to weaken the hands of at
least the guilty officials. What could they say? Were the officials
prepared, since the report of the Commission a few months before had
made public the scandals connected with the licensing and inspection
of brothels, to set about reforming the abuses by radical measures?
Certainly the Chief Justice was. He did everything in his power to
abolish slavery _as slavery_, not simply to abolish slavery when
unconnected with brothels. But subsequent history seems to indicate
that, from this point on, the British officials were ready to
compromise with the Chinese merchants, and the testimony from this
time forward was well-nigh universal in Hong Kong circles that
domestic slavery, or "domestic servitude," as Dr. Eitel recommended
that it should be called instead (since a weed by another name
may help the imagination to think it a rose), was very "mild" and
"harmless," and that the adoption of purchased boys was a "religious"
duty, or at least, had a religious flavor about it, as practiced by
the Chinese. But as we have already said, that adoption in order to be
lawful in China must be the adoption of one of the same surname.

On October 27th, 1879, the Chief Justice, at an adjourned sitting
of the Court for the purpose, sentenced two more offenders, one for
kidnaping a boy, and the other for detaining a girl with intent to
sell her. In the first case the Judge said:

"Received as you had been into the father's house in charity, you
availed yourself of the opportunity to steal his 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 labor for two years, and that you be
kept in solitary confinement for a period of one week in every two
months of your imprisonment."

Chan Achit, an old woman, convicted of having unlawfully detained a
female child of 11 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

The Chief Justice then went on to repeat the little girl's testimony
as to these "brokers of mankind," and the child's knowledge, from
personal observation of these purchases and sales, to which he adds:

"Let me here ask, Is the trade, or rather profession, 'broker of
mankind,' also a sacred China custom? I will not ask 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 prisoner was sentenced to two years' penal servitude. The Chief
Justice concluded his remarks on that occasion by replying to the
statements made in the Chinese petition.

He called attention to the Chinese resting their claim on the
temporary promise of Governor Elliott in 1841; of the fact that
they ignored the proclamation of the Queen in 1845. He said that
infanticide was also a Chinese custom in the same sense that slavery
was, on the words of the petition:

"Amongst the Chinese there has hitherto been the custom of
drowning their daughters. The Chinese threaten the increase of
this 'custom' of drowning children if their sale is put down....
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 ...
the one custom is tolerated just as the other custom is tolerated,
and both alike or neither must be claimed as sanctioned by
Governor Elliott's proclamation. 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 Hong Kong,
including those against ownership in human beings, were by express
Ordinances 6 of 1845, and 12 of 1873, embodied into the laws
of Hong Kong, whilst the worst forms of slavery are especially
punished by Ordinance 4 of 1865, and 2 of 1875. I am bound by
my most solemn obligations to enforce all these laws. I must,
therefore, without fear, favour or affection, discharge this duty
to the best of my ability."



The Report of the Commission affords the following instructive
account of the difference in the moral and social status between the
prostitute of the East and West:

"In approaching the subject of prostitution, as it is found in
Hong Kong at the present day, it is absolutely necessary for a
full and just comprehension of it, to keep in mind two distinct
considerations. One is the almost total identity of the whole
system of prostitution, which since times immemorial is an
established institution all over the large empire of China. The
other point to be kept in mind is the radical difference
which distinguishes the personal character, the life and the
surroundings of Chinese prostitutes from all that is
characteristic of the prostitutes of Europe." ... "At the present
day the Chinese prostitutes of Hong Kong have but very little to
distinguish them, either in the past, present, or future of their
personal lives, or in their position and surroundings, from
the prostitutes of the 18 provinces of China.... Those of the
prostitutes of Hong Kong who are inmates of brothels licensed for
foreigners only, or who live in sly brothels for foreigners,
have adopted a different style of dress, but are otherwise in no
essential point differently situated from prostitutes in China,
except that the inmates of brothels licensed for foreigners are
subject to compulsory medical examination, and consequently far
more despised by their countrymen and even other prostitutes."

"Prostitutes in Europe are, as a general rule, fallen women,
the victims of seduction, or possibly of innate vice. Being the
outcasts of society, and having little, if any, prospect of being
again admitted into decent and respectable circles of life,
deprived also of their own self-respect as well as the regards
of their relatives, occasionally even troubled with qualms of
conscience, they mostly dread thinking of their future, and seek
oblivion in excesses of boisterous dissipation. The Chinese
prostitutes of Hong Kong are an entirely different set of
people.... Very few of them can be called fallen women; scarcely
any of them are the victims of seduction, according to the English
sense of the term, refined or unrefined. The great majority of
them are owned by professional brothel-keepers or traders in women
in Canton or Macao, have been brought up for the profession, and
trained in various accomplishments suited to brothel life.... They
frequently know neither father nor mother, except what they call
a 'pocket-mother,' that is, the woman who bought them from
others.... They feel of course that they are the bought property
of their pocket-mother or keeper, but they know also that this is
the feeling of almost every other woman in China, liable as each
is to be sold, by her own parents or relatives, to be the wife or
concubine of a man she never sets eyes on before the wedding day,
or liable, as the case may be, to be pledged or sold, by her
parents or relatives, to serve as a domestic slave in a strange
family.... They have the chance, if they are pretty and
accomplished, of being wooed ... and they may look forward with
tolerable certainty to being made the second, or third, or fourth,
or at any rate the favorite wife of some wealthy gentleman. If
not possessed of special attractions or wealthy lovers, they look
forward to being taken out of the brothel by an honest devoted man
to share the lot of a poor man's wife. Or they may endeavor to
save money by singing, music and prostitution combined, and not
only to purchase their freedom, but to set up for themselves,
buying, rearing, and selling girls to act as servants or
concubines or prostitutes, or they may finally come to keep
brothels as managers for wealthy capitalists or speculators. There
is further a certain proportion of prostitutes in Hong Kong who
have, by the hand of their own parents or husbands, been mortgaged
or sold into temporary servitude as prostitutes, or who of their
own will and accord act as prostitutes under personal agreement
with a brothel-keeper, for a definite advance of a sum of money,
required to rescue the family, or some member of it, from some
great calamity or permanent ruin."

"There is, however, one class of women in Hong Kong who can
scarcely be called prostitutes, and who have no parallel either in
China, outside the Treaty Ports, or in Europe. They are generally
called 'protected women.' They may originally have come forth from
one or other of the above-mentioned classes of prostitutes, or may
be the offspring of protected women...."

The Report describes the situation of the "protected woman" in the
following terms:

"She resides in a house rented by her protector, who lives
generally in another part of the town; she receives a fixed salary
from her protector, and sublets every available room to individual
sly prostitutes, or to women keeping a sly brothel, no visitor
being admitted unless he have some introduction or secret
pass-words. If an inspector of brothels attempts to enter, he
is quietly informed that this is not a brothel, but the private
family residence of Mr. So and So.... This system makes the
suppression of sly brothels an impossibility.... The principal
points of difference between the various classes of Chinese
prostitutes of Hong Kong and the prostitutes of Europe amount
therefore to this, that Chinese prostitution is essentially
a bargain in money and based on a national system of female

"It must not be supposed, however, from what is said above, that
the Chinese, as a people, view prostitution as a matter of moral
indifference. On the contrary, the literature, the religions,
the laws and the public opinion of China, all join in condemning
prostitution as immoral, and in co-operation to keep it under a
certain check. The literature of the Confucianists, which, as
regards purity and utter absence of immoral suggestions, stands
unrivalled by any other nation in the world, does not countenance
prostitution in any form.... The laws and public opinion ... agree
in keeping prostitution rigidly out of sight. Although the Chinese
are a Pagan nation, they have no deification of vice in their
temples, no indecent shows in their theatres, no orgies in their
houses of public entertainment, no parading of lewd women in their
streets.... In short, as far as outward and public observation
goes, China presents a more virtuous appearance than most European

The report goes on to show that nevertheless the practice of polygamy,

"leaving the childless concubines liable to be sold or sent adrift
at any moment, the law of inheritance neglecting daughters in
favour of sons," and "the universal practice of buying and selling
females combined with the system of domestic servitude," makes
the suppression of prostitution difficult. "This intermixture of
female slavery with prostitution has been noticed in Hong Kong at
the very time when the Legislature first attempted to deal with
Chinese prostitution."

We now understand the nature of this wretched form of slavery as
carried on at Hong Kong. There did not exist a class of women brought
to the pitiable plight of prostitution by the wiles of the seducer, or
through the mishap of a lapse from virtue, after which all doors
to reform are practically closed against such, as in Western
civilization, nor were there those known to have fallen through innate
perversity; but such as existed among the Chinese were literal
slaves, in the full sense of that word. From the standpoint of these
officials, for the most part, prostitution was necessary. This was
plainly declared in many official documents. The fact that they
licensed brothels proves also that prostitution was considered
necessary. And since necessary, if the means failed whereby brothels
in the Occident are maintained, then they must be maintained by
Oriental means,--which was slavery. Under such circumstances, to
license prostitution meant, from the very nature of the case, to
license slavery. To encourage prostitution, as it always is encouraged
by the Contagious Diseases Acts, meant to encourage slavery. Hence
they reasoned, and declared--to use the language of the Registrar
General, Cecil C. Smith--that it was "useless to try and deal with
the question of the freedom of Chinese prostitutes by law or by
any Government regulation. From all the surroundings the thing is

It must be admitted that the conditions at Hong Kong favored the
development of social impurity. From the moment of British occupation,
and before, in fact, there were at that place large numbers of
unmarried soldiers and sailors, many of very loose morals; also
many men in civil and military positions as officials, and numerous
merchants, etc., most of them separated far from their families and
the restraints that surrounded them at home. On the Chinese side,
there were men accustomed to deal with their women as chattels,
willing to sell them to the foreigners.

But we need to inquire a little further into the matter before
conceding that because a thing will almost inevitably take place,
therefore it is best to license it in order to keep it within bounds.
The superficial sophist says: "Prostitution always has existed and
always will exist. Painful as the fact is, such is the frailty of
human nature. You cannot make men moral by act of parliament, and it
is foolish to try. We will have to license the thing, and thus control
it as best we can. That is the only practical way to deal with this
evil." Such reasoning as this exhibits the most confused notions as to
the nature of law.

No law is ever enacted except with the expectation that an offense
against it will take place. Law anticipates transgression as much as
license; but law provides a _check_ upon offenses and license provides
an _incitement_ to them. "The law was not made for a righteous man,
but for the lawless and disobedient." Have not murder and stealing
always existed? Are they not likely to exist in spite of laws against
them, so long as human nature remains so frail? Then why not license
_them_ in order to keep _them_ under control? It is perfectly apparent
to all that to license murder and stealing; would be the surest way of
allowing them to get quickly beyond control. "But you cannot make men
moral by act of parliament, and it is foolish to try; to put a man in
jail will not change him from a thief into an honest man." "But," you
reply, "we do not punish men for stealing and for murder for their own
good, but for the good of the community at large." Certainly. Then
what becomes of the argument that because men will not become pure by
act of parliament they are to be allowed to commit their depredations
unmolested? The primary object of law is not reformatory but
protective,--for the victims of lawlessness.

Our great Law-Giver, Jesus Christ, admitted a certain necessity of
evil, but He did not say, "therefore license it, to keep it within
bounds." He said, "It _must needs be_ that offenses come." But His
remedy for keeping the offenses within bounds was, "woe to that man by
whom the offense cometh." As inevitably as the offense was committed
so invariably must the punishment fall on the offender's head. That
is the only way to keep any evil within bounds. This is the principle
that underlies all law.

These Hong Kong officials who believed in the licensing of brothel
slavery and brought it about, have much to say about the "unfortunate
creatures" who were the victims of men. But if the advocate of license
is self-deceived in his attitude toward this social evil, we need not
be deceived in him. One does not propose a license as a remedy for an
evil, except as led to that view by secret sympathy with the evil.
A license of an evil is never proposed excepting upon the mental
acquiescence in that evil.

British officials who licensed immoral houses at Hong Kong did not
wish the libertine to be disturbed in his depredations. The Chinese
merchants were able to see this fact if those officials were not ready
to admit it even to themselves. They knew how to throw a stone that
would secure their own glass houses. Hence they said in their memorial
to the Governor:

"From 80 to 90 per cent of all these prostitutes in Hong Kong were
brought into these [licensed] brothels by purchase, as is well
known to everybody. If buying and selling is a matter of criminal
character the proper thing would be first of all, to abolish this
evil (connected with the brothels). But how comes it that since
the first establishment of the Colony down to the present day the
same old practice prevails in these licensed brothels, and has
never been forbidden or abolished?"

It is to be noted that none of the officials at Hong Kong accused the
Chinese merchants of slander in saying that from 80 to 90 per cent of
the thousands of prostitutes in the Colony were absolute slaves. The
Government was placed in a very awkward position by this challenge on
the part of the Chinese. How could a Government that held slaves in
its licensed brothels forbid Chinese residents holding slaves in their
homes? But the Governor did not propose to be compromised. He wrote to
the Secretary of State at London: "I believe I only anticipate your
instructions, in giving orders that the law, whatever may be the
consequences to the brothel system, should be strictly enforced so as
to secure the freedom of the women." But he reckoned without his host.
The Secretary of State did not stand by the Governor. So far as the
records show, the Governor and Chief Justice stood alone, his entire
Executive Council taking the opposing side. What was to be done?



Consistency demanded that either the brothel system at Hong Kong
should be abolished, or domestic slavery and so-called "adoption"
should be tolerated. No other courses were open. In his perplexity,
the Governor asked his learned Chinese interpreter, Dr. Eitel, to give
him further light as to this domestic slavery and "adoption" prevalent
among the Chinese. This request was granted in a document entitled
"Domestic servitude in relation to slavery." Dr. Eitel's main points

Slavery as known to the Westerner "has always been an incident of
race." "Slavery, therefore, has such a peculiar meaning ... that
one ought to hesitate before applying the term rashly" to Chinese
domestic slavery. Slavery in China grows out of the fact that the
father has all power, even to death, over his family. The father,
on the other hand, "has many duties as well as rights." Therefore
his power over his family "is not a mark of tyranny, but of
religious unity." "Few foreigners have comprehended the extent of
social equality, ... the amount of influence which woman, bought
and sold as she is, really has in China,... the depth of domestic
affection, of filial piety, of paternal care." "To deal justly
with the slavery of China, we ought to invent another name for
it." "The law, although sanctioning the sale of children for
purposes of adoption within each clan, and even without, is here
in advance of public opinion, as it expressly allows, by an edict,
... the sale of children only to extremely poor people in times
of famine, and forbids even in that case re-sale of a child once

This last admission on the part of Dr. Eitel, a fact already pointed
out by Sir John Smale, seems to us to clearly demonstrate that a
pretext was now being sought to justify at Hong Kong a state of things
as to slavery that the laws of China forbade and which in no wise
could be justified as Chinese "custom." "The reason for this immense
demand for young female domestics lies in the system of polygamy which
obtains all over the empire, and which has a religious basis." By this
he means that it is from the Chinese standpoint a religious duty for
a father to leave a son, upon his death, to continue the family
sacrifices. Therefore if the father has no son by his first wife, he
will "take a second or third or fourth wife until he procures a son."
"A family being in urgent distress, and requiring immediately a
certain sum of money, take one of their female children, say five
years old ... to a wealthy family, where the child becomes a member of
the family, and has, perhaps, to look after a baby.... But the child
may be sold out and out. In that case invariably a deed is drawn up."
And this is the state of things concerning which Dr. Eitel says: "Few
foreigners have comprehended the extent of social equality ... the
amount of influence which woman, bought and sold as she is, really
has in China ... the depth of domestic affection, of filial piety, of
parental care," etc.

He adds:

"Considering the deep hold which this system has on the Chinese
people, it is not to be wondered at that Chinese can scarcely
comprehend how an English judge could come to designate this
species of domestic servitude as 'slavery.' On the contrary,
intelligent Chinese look upon this system as the necessary and
indispensable complement of polygamy, as an excellent counter
remedy for the deplorably wide-spread system of infanticide, and
as the natural consequence of the chronic occurrence of famines,
inundations, and rebellions in an over-populated country. But the
abuses to which this system of buying and selling female children
is liable, in the hands of unscrupulous parents and buyers, and
the support it lends to public prostitution, are too patent facts
to require pointing out."

"The moment we examine closely into Chinese slavery and
servitude," declares Dr. Eitel, "from the standpoint of history
and sociology, we find that slavery and servitude have, with
the exception of the system of eunuchs, lost all barbaric and
revolting features." (!) "As this organism has had its certain
natural evolution, it will as certainly undergo in due time a
natural dissolution, which in fact has at more than one point
already set in. But no legislative or executive measures taken in
Hong Kong will hasten this process, which follows its own course
and its own laws laid down by a wise Providence which happily
overrules for the good all that is evil in the world."

There was, indeed, a certain justice in defending the Chinese as
against the foreigner, on Dr. Eitel's part. But two wrongs do not make
a right. From this time onward, the word of sophistry is put in
the mouth of the advocate of domestic slavery, just as the word of
sophistry had been put in the mouth of the advocate of the Contagious
Diseases Ordinance. Mr. Labouchere had spoken of the latter as a means
of protection' for the poor slaves, and the expression, 'protection,'
has been kept prominently to the front ever since Dr. Eitel suggested,
likewise, not a change in the conditions, but a change in the name by
which they were known. Let it be called 'domestic _servitude_' instead
of 'domestic _slavery_.' All the advocates of this domestic slavery
from that time have called the noxious weed by the sweeter name.

Governor Hennessey asked the opinion of others of his officials. One
Acting Police Magistrate replied 'When the servant girls (or slaves
girls, as some prefer to term them) in the families in this Colony are
contented with their lot, and their parents do not claim them, the
police cannot be expected to interfere.' Another said 'Buying and
selling children by the Chinese has been considered a harmless
proceeding, its only effect being to place the purchaser under a legal
and moral obligation to provide for the child until the seller chose
to repudiate the bargain, which he could always do under English law.'

The Attorney General, Mr. O'Malley, when asked (at a later period) his
opinion as to the utterances Sir John Smale had made from time to time
on the subject of slavery, replied to the Governor

"With regard to Sir John Smale's observation, I know that
difficulties national, social, official and financial beset the
Government in reference to the special questions I have raised,
I have only to observe that I have never heard of those
difficulties. My own impression is that the respectable parts
of the community, Chinese as well as European, including the
Government and the police, are fully alive to the brothel and
domestic servitude systems, and as well informed as Sir John Smale
himself as to the real facts. One would suppose from the tone
of his pamphlet that he stood alone in his perception and
denunciation of evil. But I believe the fact is that the Executive
and the community generally are quite as anxious is he is to
insist upon practical precautions necessary to prevent the abuses,
and to diminish the evils naturally connected with these systems,
but they look for this to practical securities and not to
declamation. The obvious line of practical suggestions to take is
that of careful registration and constant inspection of brothels,
so that full and frequent opportunity may be given to all persons
whose freedom may be open to suspicion to know their legal
position, and to assert their liberty if they like ...
Particularly it might be thought right to create a system of
registration applicable to domestic servants and strangers in
family houses. It would be a good thing if Sir John Smale would
place at the disposal of the Government (as I believe he has never
yet done) any facts connected with the brothel system or the
domestic servitude of which he possesses any real knowledge."

This letter gives us some conception of the almost insuperable
difficulties Sir John Smale had to encounter in his endeavor to put
down slavery, for not a case could come up in the Superior Court for
conviction on the Judge's information, of course, for that would
be assuming both prosecuting and judicial powers, and the men who
occupied in turn that office, during Sir John Smale's incumbency,
refused to act in unison with him, and this Attorney General's
language betrays hot prejudice, lack of candor as regarded the facts,
and insolence toward Sir John Smale.

The Attorney General has a fling at the Chief Justice as
"impracticable," yet the only practical suggestion that the former
makes in his letter as to how to meet the conditions he seems to have
taken from Sir John Smale's own words upon which he was asked to
express an opinion. The Chief Justice had said:

"I think the evils complained of might be lessened,--(1) By a
better registration of the inmates of brothels, and by frequently
bringing them before persons to whom they might freely speak as to
their position and wishes, and by such authoritative interference
with the brothel-keepers as should keep them well in fear of
exercising acts of tyranny. (2) By a stringently enforced register
of all inmates of Chinese dwelling-houses, &c., (at least of all
servants) with full inquiry into the conditions of servitude, and
an authoritative restoration of unwilling servants to freedom from
servitude. This would apply to 10,000 (according to Dr. Eitel
20,000) bond servants in Hong Kong."

The injustice of the attack of the Attorney General upon Sir John
Smale was not ignored by Governor Hennessy, when he forwarded Mr.
O'Malley's letter to London. He said:

"The apparent difference between Mr. O'Malley's views on brothel
slavery and the views of Sir John Smale is due to the fact that
Sir John Smale knew that the real brothel slavery exists in the
brothels where Chinese women are provided for European soldiers
and sailors, whereas Mr. O'Malley, in discarding the use of the
word slavery, does so on the assumption that all the Hong Kong
brothels form a part of the Chinese social system, and that the
girls naturally and willingly take to that mode of earning a
livelihood. This is a misconception of the actual facts, for
though the Hong Kong brothels, where Chinese women meet Chinese
only, may seem to provide for such women what Mr. O'Malley calls
'a natural and suitable manner of life' consistent with a part of
the Chinese social system, it is absolutely the reverse in those
Hong Kong brothels where Chinese women have to meet foreigners
only. Such brothels are unknown in the social system of China. The
Chinese girls who are registered by the Government for the use of
Europeans and Americans, detest the life they are compelled
to lead. They have a dread and abhorrence of foreigners, and
especially of the foreign soldiers and sailors. _Such girls are
the real slaves in Hong Kong._"

We underscore the last sentence as a most painful fact in the history
of the dealings of the British officials with the native women of
China, set forth on the authority of the Governor of Hong Kong, who,
with the help of Sir John Smale, the Chief Justice, waged such a
fearless warfare against slavery under the British flag, with such
unworthy misrepresentation and opposition on the part of the other
officials equally responsible with them in preserving the good name of
their country, and in defending rather than trampling upon its laws.
Governor Hennessy continues

"To drive Chinese girls into such brothels [i.e., those for the
use of foreigners] was the object of the system of informers which
Mr. C. C. Smith for so many years conducted in this Colony,
and which in his evidence before the Commission on the 3rd of
December, 1877, he defended on the ground of its necessity in
detecting unlicensed houses, but which your Lordship [Lord
Kimberley, Secretary of State for the Colonies] has now justly
stigmatized as a revolting abuse. On another point the Attorney
General also seems not to appreciate fully what he must have heard
Sir John Smale saying from the Bench in the Supreme Court. It
would be a mistake to think that the Chief Justice had not before
he left the Colony, realized the public opinion of the Chinese
community on the subject of kidnaping. In sentencing a prisoner
for kidnaping, on the 10th of March, 1881, Sir John Smale said he
was bound to declare from the Bench that, to the credit of the
Chinese, a right public opinion had been growing up, and on the
25th of March, 1881, (the last occasion when Sir John Smale spoke
in the Supreme Court of Hong Kong), he said, in a case in
which the kidnapers had been convicted--This case presents two
satisfactory facts first, that a Chinese boat woman handed one of
these prisoners to the police, and that afterward an agent of the
Chinese Society to suppress this class of crime caused the arrest
and conviction of these prisoners. These facts are indicative of
the public mind tending to treat kidnaping as a crime against
society, calling for active suppression. On the same occasion, in
sentencing a woman who had severely beaten an adopted child, Sir
John Smale said, 'In finally disposing of these three cases, with
all their enormity, sources of satisfaction present themselves in
the fact that, in each of these cases, it has been owing to the
spontaneous indignation of Chinese men and women that these crimes
have been brought to the knowledge of the police.' The Governor
closes his letter with the statement, 'It is only due to Sir John
Smale to add that his own action has greatly contributed to foster
the "healthy" public opinion of the native community, which
induced him, when quitting the Supreme Court, to take a hopeful
view of the future of this important subject.'"



The Acting Attorney General at the time of Sir John Smale's first
pronouncement against slavery had suggested to Governor Hennessy that
Sir John Smale's statements should be sent to London to the Secretary
of State for the Colonies; and he and other advisers recommended that
no prosecutions in connection with "adoption" and "domestic servitude"
should be instituted, pending the receipt of instructions from the
Home Government. The Chief Justice concurred in these views, and also
suggested that the Chinese be told that no prosecutions as to the past
should take place, but that in future, in every case where _buying and
selling_ occurred in connection with adoption or domestic service, the
Government would undoubtedly prosecute.

The replies that came from the Secretary of State indicated scant
sympathy with Sir John Smale's position. His action was likely to
disturb the system of regulation of vice at Hong Kong, and these
health measures were in high repute with that official at London. He
could not sympathize with the Governor's view that laws securing the
freedom of the women were to be executed, whatever the result to the
brothel system. He wrote in reply as though Sir John Smale had said
many things that had not been put in the same light, demanded to know
what law could be put into operation to improve conditions, and wished
to know if Sir John Smale accepted Dr. Eitel's views on "domestic
servitude," and later he wrote pronouncing the views expressed in the
insolent attack of Mr. O'Malley upon Sir John Smale's anti-slavery
pronouncements as "well considered and convincing." He also referred
to the "humane intentions" of Mr. Labouchere in the passing of the
Contagious Diseases Ordinance of Sir John Bowring's time, which "were
intended to ameliorate the condition of the women." But it does not so
much concern us what the officials in London did and said, excepting
at the one point, namely, that they did not at this time back the
noble efforts of the Governor and of Sir John Smale to put down
slavery, and so rendered it practically impossible for them to
accomplish what they wished to do. The replies from Sir John Smale
are, however, of much value to us, as throwing light upon social
conditions at Hong Kong. On August 26, 1880, Sir John Smale replied in
a letter meant for the Secretary of State at London, but sent in due
form to the Colonial Secretary at Hong Kong for forwarding:

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