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

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  • 1907
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“_Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them_.”

[Illustration: A Chinatown Slave Market and Den of Vice. (Built and owned by Americans.)]






“Heathen slaves and Christian rulers.” No injustice is done to Christians in the title given this book. The word “Christian” is capable of use in two senses, individual and political. We apply the words “Hindoo” and “Mahommedan” in these two senses also. A man who has been born and brought up in the environment of the Hindoo or Mahommedan religions, and who has not avowed some other form of faith, but has yielded at least an outward allegiance to these forms, we declare to be a man of one or the other faith. Moreover, we judge of his religion by the fruits of it in his moral character. Just so, every European or American who has not openly disavowed the Christian religion for some other faith is called a “Christian.” Furthermore, such men, when they mingle with those of other religions, as in the Orient, call themselves “Christians,” in distinction from those of other faith about them. They claim the word “Christian” as by right theirs in this political sense, and it is in this sense that we employ the word “Christian” in the title of this book. The word is used thus when reckoning the world’s population according to religions.

As we treat the Hindoo or Mohammedan so he treats us. Our Christianity is judged, and must ever be, in the Orient, by the moral character of the men who are called Christian; and the distinguishing vices of such men are regarded as characteristic of their religion. Official representatives of a Christian nation have gone to Hong Kong and to Singapore, and there, because of their social vices, elaborated a system, first of all of brothel slavery; and domestic slavery has sheltered itself under its wing, as it were; and lastly, at Singapore coolie labor is managed by the same set of officials. What these officials have done has been accepted by the Oriental people about them as done by the Christian civilization. It cannot be said that the evils mentioned above have been the outgrowth of Oriental conditions and customs, principally. It has been rather the misfortune of the Orient that there were brought to their borders by Western civilization elements calculated to induce their criminal classes to ally themselves with these aggressive and stronger “Christians” to destroy safeguards which had been heretofore sufficient, for the most part, to conserve Chinese social morality.

Christian people, even as far back as Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong, and up to the present time, both at Hong Kong and Singapore, have acquiesced in the false teaching that vice cannot be put under check in the Orient, where, it is claimed, passion mounts higher than in the Occident, and that morality is, to a certain extent, a matter of climate; and in the presence of large numbers of unmarried soldiers and sailors it is simply “impracticable” to attempt repressive measures in dealing with social vice. These Christians have listened to counsels of despair,–the arguments of gross materialists,–and have shut their eyes to the plainly written THOU SHALT NOT of the finger of God in His Book.

Had there been the same staunch standing true to principle in these Oriental countries as in Great Britain the state of immorality described in the pages of this book could never have developed to the extent it did. But Christians yielded before what they considered at least unavoidable, and, not abiding living protests, must take their share of blame for the state of matters. A higher moral public opinion _could_ have been created which would have made the existence of actual slavery an impossibility, with the amount of legislation that existed with which to put it down. There were a guilty silence and a guilty ignorance on the part of the better elements of Christian society at Singapore and Hong Kong, which could be played upon by treacherous, corrupt officials by the flimsy device of calling the ravishing of native women “protection,” and the most brazen forms of slavery “servitude.” To this extent the individual Christians of these colonies are in many cases guilty of compromise with slavery; and to this extent the title of this book applies to them.

The vices of European and American men in the Orient have not been the development of climate but of opportunity. It is not so easy in Christian lands to stock immoral houses with slaves, for the reason that the slaves are not present with which to do it. Women have freedom and cannot be openly bought and sold even in marriage; women have self-reliance and self-respect in a Christian country; they have a clean, decent religion; women who worship the true God have His protecting arm to defend themselves, and through them other women who do not personally worship God share in the benefits. If free, independent women of God were as scarce in America as in Hong Kong the same moral conditions would prevail here, without regard to climate, for, _if women could be bought and sold and reduced by force to prostitution, there are libertines enough, and they have propensities strong enough to enter at once upon the business, even in America_. That which has elevated women above this slave condition is the development of a self-respect and dignity born of the Christian faith. But let us take warning. If the women of America have not the decent self-respect to refuse to tolerate the Oriental slave-prostitute in this country, the balance will be lost, libertines will have their own way through the introduction into our social fabric of their slaves, and Christian womanhood will fall before it. “Ye have not proclaimed liberty every one to his fellow, therefore I proclaim liberty to you, saith the Lord, to the sword, and the famine, and the pestilence.”

Having yielded before counsels of despair, those who should have stood shoulder to shoulder with statesmen like Sir John Pope Hennessy and Sir John Smale in their efforts to exterminate slavery, rather, by their indifference and ignorance, greatly added to the obstacles put in their way by unworthy officials.

The story we have to relate cannot in any fairness be used as an arraignment of British Christianity excepting as we have already indicated as to local conditions. The record that British Christian philanthropists have made, under the leadership of the now sainted Mrs. Josephine Butler, in their world-wide influence for purity, needs no eulogy from our pen. It is known to the world. May Americans strive with equal energy against conditions far more hopeful of amendment, and we will be content to leave the issue with God.

It was our purpose when we undertook the task of writing a sketch which would enable Americans to understand the social conditions that are being introduced into our midst from the Orient, merely to make a concise, brief statement of social conditions in Hong Kong out of which these have grown, drawing our information from State Documents of the British Government that we have had for some time in our possession, and of which we have made a close study, as well as from our own observations of the conditions themselves as they exist at Hong Kong and Singapore. But almost at once we abandoned that attempt as unwise because likely to prove injurious rather than helpful to the object we have in view. The facts that we have to relate form one of the blackest chapters in the history of human slavery, and slavery brought up to the present time. Our statements if standing merely on our own word would be met at once with incredulity and challenged, and before we could defend them by producing the proof, a prejudice would be created that might prove disastrous to our hopes of arousing our country to the point of exterminating this horrible Oriental brothel slavery by means of which even American men are enriching themselves on the Pacific Coast.

Therefore we have felt obliged to produce our proof at once and at first, and after that, if needed, we can write a more simple, concise account, in less official and less cumbersome form, more suitable for the general public to read,–not that the case could be stated in purer or cleaner language than that used in the quotations from official statements and letters, but the language might be more suited to public taste. But worth cannot be sacrificed to taste, and, as we have said, we feel compelled to publish the matter in its present form first of all.

We send it forth, therefore, with the earnest prayer that, while the book itself may have a limited circulation, yet, through the providence of God, it may arouse some one to attempt that which seems beyond our powers and opportunity,–some one who will feel the call of God; who has the training and the ability; some one who has the spirit of devotion and self-denial; some one of keen moral perceptions and lofty faith in the ultimate triumph of justice, who will lead a crusade that will never halt until Oriental slavery is banished from our land, and it can no more be said, “The name of God is blasphemed among the heathen because of you.”

The documents from which we have quoted so extensively in this book are the following:

“_Correspondence Relating to the Working of the Contagious Diseases Ordinances of the Colony of Hongkong_.” August 1881. C.-3093.

“_Copy of Report of the Commissioners Appointed by His Excellency, John Pope Hennessy … to inquire Into the Working of the Contagious Diseases Ordinance, 1867_.” March 11, 1880. H.C. 118.

“_Correspondence Respecting the Alleged Existence of Chinese Slavery in Hongkong_.” March, 1882. C.-3185.

“_Return of all the British Colonies and Dependencies in Which by Ordinance or Otherwise Any System Involving the Principles of the Late Contagious Diseases Acts, 1866 and 1869, is in force, with Copies of Such Ordinances or Other Regulations_.” June, 1886. H.C. 247.

“_Copies of Correspondence or Extracts Therefrom Relating to the Repeal of Contagious Diseases Ordinances and Regulations in the Crown Colonies_.” September, 1887. H.C. 347

Same as above, in continuation, March, 1889. H.C. 59.

Same as above, in continuation, June, 1890. H.C. 242.

“_Copy of Correspondence which has taken place since that comprised in the Paper presented to the House of Commons in 1890_ (H.C. 242),” etc., June 4, 1894. H. C. 147.

“_Copy of Correspondence Relative to Proposed Introduction of Contagious Diseases Regulations in Perak or Other Protected Malay States_.” June 4, 1894. H.C. 146.

May 1907









Time was when so-called Christian civilization seemed able to send its vices abroad and keep its virtues at home. When men went by long sea voyages to the far East in sailing vessels, in the interests of conquest or commerce, and fell victims to their environments and weak wills, far removed from the restraints of religious influences, and from the possibility of exposure and disgrace in wrongdoing, they lived with the prospect before them, not always unfulfilled, of returning to home and to virtue to die.

That day has passed forever. With the invention of steam as a locomotive power of great velocity, with the introduction of the cable, and later, the wireless telegraphy; with the mastery of these natural forces and their introduction in every part of the world, we see the old world being drawn nearer and nearer to us by ten thousand invisible cords of commercial interests, until shortly, probably within the lifetime of you and me, the once worn out and almost stranded wreck will be found quickened with new life and moored alongside us. The Orient is already feeling the thrill of renewed life. It is responding to the touch of the youth and vigor of the West and becoming rejuvenated; it is drawing closer and closer in its eagerness for the warmth of new interests. The West is no longer alone in seeking a union; the East is coming to the West. And that part of the East which first responds to the West is the old acquaintance; the one that knows most about us, our ways and our resources; the element with which the long sea-voyager mingled in the days when it seemed more difficult for man to be virtuous, because separated so far from family and friends and living in intense loneliness. The element which now draws closest to us is that portion of the Orient with which the adventurer warred and sinned long ago, and which bears the deep scars of sin and battle.

As the old hulk is moored alongside, in order that the man of Western enterprise may cross with greater facility the gangplank and develop latent resources on the other side, the Easterner hurries across from his side to ours with no less eagerness, to pick up gold in a land where it seems so abundant to him. Almost unnoticed, the Orient is telescoping its way into the very heart of the Occident, and with fearful portent and peril, particularly to the Western woman.

This is not what is desired, but it will be inevitable. Exclusion laws must finally give way before the pressure. Already the Orient is knocking vigorously at the door of the Occident, and unless admission is granted soon, measures of retaliation will be operated to force an entrance. How to administer them the Orient already knows, for has not the door to his domicile been already forced open by the Western trader? The Orient is fast arming for the conflict.

The men of the days of sailing vessels, who went to the far East and made sport of and trampled upon the virtue of the women of a weaker nation, have not all died in peace, leaving their vices far off and gathering virtues about them to crown their old age with venerableness. Some have lived to see that whatsoever man soweth that shall he also reap. They have lived to see the tide setting in in the other direction, and the human wreckage of past vices swept by the current of immigration close to their own domicile. Their own children are in danger of being engulfed in the polluting flood of Oriental life in our midst. After many days vices come home. Man sowed the wind; the whirlwind must be reaped. The Oriental slave trader and the Oriental slave promise to become a terrible menace and scourge to our twentieth century civilization. Herein lies great peril to American womanhood. Whether we wish it to be so or not,–whether we perceive from the first that it is so or not, there is a solidarity of womanhood that men and women must reckon with. The man who wrongs another’s daughter perceives afterwards that he wronged his own daughter thereby. We cannot, without sin against humanity, ask the scoffer’s question, “Am I my sister’s keeper?”–not even concerning the poorest and meanest foreign woman, for the reason that _she is our sister_. The conditions that surround the Hong Kong slave girl in California are bound in time to have their influence upon the social, legal and moral status of all California women, and later of all American womanhood.

In considering the life history of the Chinese woman living in our Chinatowns in America, therefore, we are studying matters of vital importance to us. And in order to a clear understanding of the matter, we must go back to the beginning of the slave-trade which has brought these women to the West.

Four points on the south coast of China are of especial interest to us, being the sources of supply of this slave-trade. These are Macao, Canton, Kowloon and Hong Kong, and the women coming to the West from this region all pass through Hong Kong, remaining there a longer or shorter time, the latter place being the emporium and thoroughfare of all the surrounding ports.

The south coast of China is split by a Y-shaped gap, at about its middle, where the Canton river bursts the confines of its banks and plunges into the sea. The lips of this mouth of the river are everted like those of an aboriginal African, and like a pendant from the eastern lip hangs the Island of Hong Kong, separated from the mainland by water only one-fourth of a mile wide. From the opposite or western lip hangs another pendant, a small island upon which is situated the Portuguese city of Macao. The mainland adjoining Hong Kong is the peninsula of Kowloon, ceded to the British with the island of Hong Kong. Well up in the mouth of the river on its western bank, some eighty miles from Hong Kong, is the city of Canton.

Let us imagine for a moment that the on-coming civilization of our country pushed the American Indians not westward but southward toward the Gulf of Mexico and along the banks of the Mississippi, and compressed them on every side until at last they were obliged to take to boats in the mouth of the Mississippi and live there perpetually, seldom stepping foot on land.

Now we are the better able to understand exactly what took place with an aboriginal tribe in China. These aborigines were, centuries ago, pushed southward by an on-coming civilization until at last, by imperial decree, they were forbidden to live anywhere except on boats in the mouth of the Canton river, floating up and down that stream, and sailing about Hong Kong and Macao in the more open sea.

They must have been always a hardy people, for the river population about Canton numbers today nearly 200,000 souls. In 1730, the severity of the laws regulating their lives was relaxed somewhat by imperial decree, and since then some of them have dwelt in villages along the river bank. But to the present day these people, known as the Tanka Tribe, or the “saltwater” people, by the natives, may not inter-marry with other Chinese, nor are they ever allowed to attain to official honors.

Living always on boats near the river’s mouth, these were the first Chinese to come in contact with foreign sailing vessels which approached China in the earliest days. They sold their wares to the foreigners; they piloted their boats into port; they did the laundry work for the ships. In many ways they showed friendliness to the foreigners while as yet the landsman viewed the new-comers with suspicion. Their women were grossly corrupted by contact with the foreign voyagers and sailors.

Hong Kong was a long way off at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Great Britain began to send Government-manufactured opium from India to China, and when China prohibited the trade the drug was smuggled in. When Chinese officials at last rose up to check this invasion by foreign trade, wars followed in which China was worsted, and the island of Hong Kong, together with the Kowloon peninsula, became a British possession as war indemnity. Hong Kong is a “mere dot in the ocean less than twenty-seven miles in circumference,” and when Great Britain took possession its inhabitants were limited to “a few fishermen and cottagers.”

The Tankas helped the British in many ways in waging these wars, and when peace was established went to live with them on the island. This action on the part of these “river people” is significant as showing as much or more attachment to the foreigner than to the other classes of Chinese. There seems always to be less conscience in wronging an alien people than in injuring a people to whom one is closely attached, and this sense of estrangement from other Chinese may account to some extent for the facility with which this aboriginal people engaged, a little later, in the trade in women and girls brought from the mainland to meet the demands of profligate foreigners.

Sir Charles Elliott, Governor of Hong Kong, wishing to attract Chinese immigration to the island, issued, on February 1st and 2nd, 1841, two proclamations in the name of the Queen, to the effect that there would be no interference with the free exercise on the part of the Chinese of their religious rites, ceremonies and social customs, “pending Her Majesty’s pleasure.”

Following the custom of all Oriental people, to whom marriage is a trade in the persons of women, when the Tankas saw that the foreigners had come to that distant part almost universally without wife or family, they offered to sell them women and girls, and the British seem to have purchased them at first, but afterwards they modified the practice to merely paying a monthly stipend. All slavery throughout British possessions had been prohibited only a few years before the settlement of Hong Kong, in 1833, when 20,000,000 pounds had been distributed by England as a boon to slave-holders.

Hong Kong’s first Legislative Council was held in 1844, and its first ordinance was an anti-slavery measure in the form of an attempt to define the law relating to slavery. It was a long process in those days for the Colony to get the Queen’s approval of its legislative measures, so that a year had elapsed before a dispatch was returned from the Home Government disallowing the Ordinance as superfluous, slavery being already forbidden, and slave-dealing indictable by law. On the same day, January 24th, 1845, the following proclamation was made: “Whereas, the Acts of the British Parliament for the abolition of the slave trade, and for the abolition of slavery, extend by their own proper force and authority to Hong Kong: This is to apprise all persons of the same, and to give notice that these Acts will be enforced by all Her Majesty’s officers, civil and military, within this Colony.”

The “foreigners,” by which name, according to a custom which prevails to this day in the East, we shall call persons of British, European or American birth,–called a native mistress a “protected woman,” and her “protector” set her up in an establishment by herself, apart from his abode, and here children were born to the foreigner, some to be educated in missionary schools and elsewhere by their illegitimate fathers and afterwards become useful men and women, but probably the majority, more neglected, to become useless and profligate,–if girls, mistresses to foreigners, or, as the large number of half-castes in the immoral houses at Hong Kong at the present time demonstrates, to fall to the lowest depths of degradation.

These “protected women,” enriched beyond anything they had even known before the foreigner came to that part of the world, with the usual thrift of the Chinese temperament, sought for a way to invest their earnings, and quite naturally, could think of nothing so profitable as securing women and girls to meet the demands of the foreigners. Marriage having always been, to the Oriental mind, scarcely anything beyond the mere trade in the persons of women, it was but a step from that attitude of mind to the selling of girls to the foreigner, and the rearing of them for that object. The “protected women,” being of the Tanka tribe, were well situated for this purpose, for they had many relations of kindred and friendship all up and down the Canton river, and the business of the preparation of slave girls for the foreigners and for foreign markets (as the trade expanded) gradually extended backwards up the Canton river, until many of its boats were almost given over to it. “Flower-boats” were probably never unknown to this river, but, besides their use as brothels, they became stocked with little girls under training for vice, under the incitement of an ever-growing slave trade. These little girls were bought, stolen or enticed from the mainland by these river people, to swell the number of their own children destined to the infamous slave trade. Chinese law forbids this kind of slavery, but, as we have seen, the Tanka people were sort of outlaws, the river life facilitated such a business, and Hong Kong was near at hand.

In later years Dr. Eitel, Chinese interpreter to the Governor, stated:

“Almost every so-called ‘protected woman,’ i.e. kept mistress of foreigners here, belongs to the Tanka tribe, looked down upon and kept at a distance by all the other Chinese classes. It is among these Tanka women, and especially under the protection of these ‘protected’ Tanka women, that private prostitution and the sale of girls for concubinage flourishes, being looked upon as a legitimate profession. Consequently, almost every ‘protected woman’ keeps a nursery of purchased children or a few servant girls who are being reared with a view to their eventual disposal, according to their personal qualifications, either among foreigners here as kept women, or among Chinese residents as their concubines, or to be sold for export to Singapore, San Francisco, or Australia. Those ‘protected women,’ moreover, generally act as ‘protectors’ each to a few other Tanka women who live by sly prostitution.”

When once a man enters the service of Satan he is generally pressed along into it to lengths he did not at first intend to go. So it proved in the case of many foreigners at Hong Kong. The foreigner extended his “protection” to a native mistress. That “protected woman” extended his name as “protector” over the inmates of her secret brothel; and into that house protected largely from official interference, purchased and kidnaped girls were introduced and reared for the trade in women. The sensitive point seems to have been that an enforcement of the anti-slavery laws would have interfered in many instances with the illicit relations of the foreigner, exposing him to ignominy and sending the mother of his children to prison. It was sufficient for the “protected” woman to say, when the officer of the law rapped at her door, “This is not a brothel, but the private family residence of Mr. So-and-So,” naming some foreigner,–perhaps a high-placed official,–and the officer’s search would proceed no further.

It was claimed that this slavery, and also domestic slavery, which sprang up so suddenly after the settlement of Hong Kong by the British, was the outgrowth of Chinese customs, and could not be suppressed but with the greatest difficulty, and their suppression was an unwarrantable interference with Chinese customs, Sir Charles Elliott having given promise from the first that such customs should not be interfered with. But, as we have shown, that promise was only made, “pending Her Majesty’s pleasure,” which had been very plainly and pointedly expressed later as opposed to slavery.

As to the matter of “custom,” Sir John Smale, Chief Justice of Hong Kong, said, in 1879, in the Supreme Court, on the occasion of sentencing prisoners for slave trading and kidnaping:

“Can Chinese slavery, as it _de facto_ exists in Hong Kong, be considered a Chinese custom which can be brought within the intent and meaning of either of the proclamations of 1841 so as to be sanctioned by the proclamations? I assert that it cannot…. A custom is ‘such a usage as by common consent and uniform practice has become a law.’ In 1841 there could have been no custom of slavery in Hong Kong as now set up, for, save a few fishermen and cottagers, the island was uninhabited; and between 1841 and 1844, the date of the Ordinance expressly prohibiting slavery, there was no time for such a custom to have grown up; and slavery in every form having been by express law prohibited by the Royal proclamation of the Queen in 1845, no custom contrary to that law could, after that date, grow up, because the thing was by express law illegal. I go further, and I find that the penal law of China, whilst it facilitates the adoption of children into a family to keep up its succession, prohibits by section 78 the receiving into his house by any one of a person of a different surname, declaring him guilty of ‘confounding family distinctions,’ and punishing him with 60 blows; the father of the son who shall ‘give away’ … his son is to be subject to the same punishment. Again, section 79 enacts that whosoever shall receive and detain the strayed or lost child of a respectable person, and, instead of taking it before the magistrate, sell such child as a slave, shall be punished by 100 blows and three years’ banishment. Whosoever shall sell such child for marriage or adoption into any family as son or grandson shall be punished with 90 blows and banishment for two years and a half. Whosoever shall dispose of a strayed or lost slave shall suffer the punishment provided by the law reduced one degree. If any person shall receive or detain a fugitive child, and, instead of taking it before the magistrate, sell such child for a slave, he shall be punished by 90 blows and banishment for two years and a half. Whosoever shall sell any such fugitive child for marriage or adoption shall suffer the punishment of 80 blows and two years’ banishment…. Whosoever shall detain for his own use as a slave, wife, or child, any such lost, strayed or fugitive child or slave, shall be equally liable to be punished as above mentioned, but if only guilty of detaining the same for a short time the punishment shall not exceed 80 blows. When the purchaser or the negotiator of the purchase shall be aware of the unlawfulness of the transaction he shall suffer punishment one degree less than that inflicted on the seller, and the amount of the pecuniary consideration shall he forfeited to Government, but when he or they are foun have been unacquainted therewith they shall not be liable to punishment, and the money shall be restored to the party from whom it had been received.” The Chief Justice continues: “After reading these extracts from the Penal Code of China–an old Code revised from time to time … I cannot see how it can be maintained that any form of slavery was ever tolerated by law in Hong Kong, as it _de facto_ exists here, or how the words of the two proclamations of 1841 could be said to bear the color of tolerating slavery under the British flag in Hong Kong. It is clear to me that the Queen’s proclamation of 1845, which I have already quoted at full, declares slavery absolutely illegal here.”

The truth, then, seems to be that a great demand had arisen for Chinese women at Hong Kong, the most direct cause being the irregular conduct of foreigners–officials, private individuals, soldiers and sailors–who gathered there at the time of the opium wars, and settled there in large numbers when Hong Kong became a British possession. This demand was responded to from the native side, for it was said: “When the colony of Hong Kong was first established in 1842, it was forthwith invaded by brothel keepers and prostitutes from the adjoining districts of the mainland of China, who brought with them the national Chinese system of prostitution, and have ever since labored to carry it into effect in all its details.”[A] The demand that brought this supply was further added to from two sources, first, Chinese residents attracted to Hong Kong had made money there rapidly, and had fallen into profligate and luxurious manners of life, and second, Chinese going abroad to Australia, Singapore and San Francisco, created a demand for immoral women in these foreign lands which called for supplies from Hong Kong, and at Singapore the demand came also from the class of foreigners who resided there.

[Footnote A: Hong Kong was occupied by the British in 1841, but not ceded until 1842.]

The system of management of prostitution was originally Chinese, and differs much from anything known under Western civilization, in that the women are never what we speak of as “fallen women,” because not the victims of seduction nor of base propensities that have led to the choice of such a life. They are either slaves trained for or sold into shame, or women temporarily held for debt by a sort of mortgage. To this Chinese system of prostitution, however, there was soon applied at Hong Kong a Government system of regulation or license under surveillance. This modified the system, intensified the slavery, and was the cause of reducing many women from the respectable ranks of Chinese life at once and arbitrarily to the lowest depths of degradation, as we shall explain and demonstrate in subsequent chapters.

The native woman, rented for a monthly stipend from her owners was called “protected” at Hong Kong. What charm this word “protection,” and the title “Protector” has held for certain persons, as applied to the male sex! “Man, the natural protector of woman.” Forsooth, to protect her from what? Rattlesnakes, buffalo, lions, wildcats no more overrun the country, and why is this relation of “protector” still claimed? Why, to protect woman from rudeness, and insult and sometimes even worse. But from whence comes that danger of rudeness and insult or worse from which man is to protect woman? From man, of course. Man is, then, woman’s natural protector to protect her from man, her natural protector. He is to set himself the task of defending her from his injury of her, and he is charmed with the avocation. He will protect her as Abraham protected Sarah when he took her into Egypt. “Do so-and-so,” said Abraham to Sarah, “that it may be well with me,–for thy sake.” The history of the Chinese slave woman as she came in contact with the foreigner at Hong Kong and at Singapore proceeds all along a pathway labelled “protection,” down to the last ditch of human degradation. “Well with me,” was the motive in the mind of the “protector.” “For thy sake,” the argument for the thing as put before the woman and before the world.



In 1849 a man whose name is known the world over as a writer of Christian hymns, went to Canton as British Consul and Superintendent of trade. After a few years he returned to England, and in 1854 was knighted and sent out to govern the new colony of Hong Kong. It is he who wrote that beautiful hymn, among others, “Watchman, tell us of the night.” He also wrote, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory.” One is tempted to ask, in which Cross?–the kind made of gilded tin which holds itself aloft in pride on the top of the church steeple, or the Cross proclaimed in the challenge of the great Cross-bearer, “Whosoever doth not bear his Cross, and come after Me, cannot be my disciple”? The Cross is the emblem of self-sacrifice for the salvation of the world. Oh, that men really gloried in such self-sacrifice, and held it forth as the worthiest principle of life! Did Sir John Bowring hold aloft such a Cross as this, and, with his Master, recommend it to the world as the means of its elevation and emancipation from the blight of sin? We shall not judge him individually. His example should be a warning to the fact that even the most religious men can too often hold very different views of life according to whether they are embodied in religious sentiments or in one’s politics. But nowhere are right moral conceptions more needed (not in hymn-book nor in church), as in the enactments by which one’s fellow-beings are governed. Other religious men not so conspicuous as Sir John Bowring, but of more enlightened days than his, have died and left on earth a testimony to strangely divergent views and principles, according to whether they were crystallized in religious sentiments, or in the laws of the land, and according to whether they legislated for men or for women.

On May 2nd, 1856, Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong, wrote to the Secretary of State for the Colonies at London submitting a draft of an Ordinance which was desired at Hong Kong because of certain conditions prevailing at Hong Kong which were described in the enclosures in his despatch. Mr. Labouchere, the Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time, replied to the Governor’s representations in the following language: “The Colonial Government has not, I think, attached sufficient weight to the very grave fact that in a British Colony large numbers of women should be held in practical slavery for the purposes of prostitution, and allowed in some cases to perish miserably of disease in the prosecution of their employment, and for the gain of those to whom they suppose themselves to belong. A class of persons who by no choice of their own are subjected to such treatment have an urgent claim on the active protection of Government.”

Hong Kong, the British colony, had existed but fourteen years when this was written. Only a handful of fishermen and cottagers were on the island before the British occupation. Its Chinese population had come from a country where, as we have seen, laws against the buying and selling, detaining and kidnaping human beings were not unfamiliar. Only eleven years had elapsed since the Queen’s proclamation against slavery in that colony had been published to its inhabitants, and yet, during that time, slavery had so advanced at Hong Kong, against both Chinese and British law, as to receive this recognition and acknowledgment on the part of the Secretary of State at London:

1st, That it is a “grave fact that” at Hong Kong “large numbers of women” are “held in practical slavery.”

2nd, That this slavery is “for the gain of those to whom they suppose themselves to belong.”

3rd, That it is so cruel that “in some cases” they “perish miserably … in the prosecution of their employment.”

4th, That it is “by no choice of their own” that they prosecute their employment, and “are subjected to such treatment.”

5th, That they have “an urgent claim upon the active protection of Government.”

6th, That the service to which these slaves are doomed, through “no choice of their own,” is the most degraded to which a slave could possibly be reduced, i.e., “prostitution.”

When Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” she sounded the note of doom for slavery in the United States. After that, slavery became intolerable. Many have remarked on the fact that the book should have so stirred the conscience of the Christian world, when there are depicted in it so many even engaging features and admirable persons, woven into the story of wrong. Her pen did not seem to make slavery appear always and altogether black. But there was the fate of “Uncle Tom,” and the picture of “Cassie,” captive of “Legree.” It was not what slavery always was, but _what it might be_–the terrible possibilities, that aroused the conscience of Christendom, and made the perpetuation of African slavery an impossibility to Americans. The master _might_ choose to use his power over the slave for the indulgence of his own basest propensities.

Almost at the same time of these stirring events connected with slavery in the United States, Mr. Labouchere penned the above words, admitting that slavery at Hong Kong had descended to that lowest level. Infamy instead of industry was the lot of these, engaged in the “prosecution of their employment,” through “no choice of their own.”

Can we anticipate what legal measures would be asked for at Hong Kong, and granted in London in order to relieve this horrible condition. It seems at once obvious that the following would be some of them at least:

1st, A clear announcement that this slavery was prohibited by the Queen’s Anti-Slavery Proclamation of 1845, and would not be permitted.

2nd, Women who “supposed themselves to belong” to masters would be at once told that they were free agents and belonged to no one.

3rd, The master who dared claim the ownership of a former slave would be prosecuted and suitably punished.

4th, Any slave perishing miserably from disease would not only be healed at public expense, but placed where there was no further risk of contagion.

5th, Since such slaves had “an urgent claim on the _active_ protection of the Government,” they would be treated as wards of the State until safe from like treatment a second time.

6th, Since this slavery had sprung up in defiance of law, any official who at a future time connived at such crime would be liable to impeachment.

The Ordinance sent home for sanction, and approved of by Mr. Labouchere as needed for the “protection” of slave women, was proclaimed as Ordinance 12, 1857, after some slight modifications, and an official appointed a few months before, called the “Protector of Chinese,” was charged with the task of its enforcement. This official is also called the Registrar General at Hong Kong, but the former name was given him at the first, and the official at Singapore charged with the same duties is always, to this day, called the “Protector of Chinese.”

The new Ordinance embodied the following features:

1st, The registration of immoral houses.

2nd, Their confinement to certain localities.

3rd, The payment of registration fees to the Government.

4th, A periodical, compulsory, indecent examination of every woman slave.

5th, The imprisonment of the slave in the Lock Hospital until cured, and then a return to her master and the exact conditions under which she was “from no choice of her own,” exposed to contagion, with the expectation that she would be shortly returned again infected.

6th, The punishment by imprisonment of the slave when any man was found infected from consorting with her, through “no choice of her own.”

7th, The punishment by fine and imprisonment of all persons keeping slaves in an _un_registered house (which was not a source of profit to the Government).

This was the only sort of “active protection” that the Government of Hong Kong at that time provided to the slave. The matter of “protection” which concerned the “Protector of Chinese,” related to keeping the women from becoming incapacitated in the prosecution of their employment, and to seeing that the hopelessly diseased were eliminated from the herd of slaves. The rest of the “protection” looked to the physical well-being of another portion of the community–the fornicators. If physical harm came to them from wilful sin, the Chinese women would be punished by imprisonment for it, though their sin was forced upon them. This was “protection” from the official standpoint.

Mr. Labouchere had replied with his approval of this Ordinance dealing with contagious diseases due to vice, as though the application for the measure had been made in behalf of the slaves of Hong Kong. Such was not the case. The enclosures in Sir John Bowring’s despatch had been a sensational description of the urgent need of vicious men for the active protection of the Government from the consequences of their vices. Later, a Commission of Inquiry into the working of this Ordinance comments upon official statements as to the satisfactory consequences of the enactment of the measure in the checking of disease. The Commission demonstrates that in many instances their statements were absolute falsehoods, as proved by statements made by the same officials elsewhere. Since these officials are proved to have been so untruthful after the passing of the Ordinance, we can put no reliance on their statements previous to its enactments, and the more so because the statistics for Hong Kong in its early days are hopelessly confused with the general statistics for all China, wherever British soldiers or sailors were to be found. Therefore they are unavailable for citation. But as to statements made after the passage of the Ordinance, we append a compilation, as set forth by Dr. Birkbeck Nevins of Liverpool, England.


“Referring to the Colonial Surgeon’s Department, we feel bound to point out that those portions of the _Annual Medical Reports_ which refer to the subject of the Lock Hospital _have, in too many instances, been altogether misleading_.” (Report of Commission, p. 2, parag. 2.)

“In 1862 (five years after the Act had been in force) Dr. Murray was ‘_completely satisfied_ with the _incalculable_ benefit that had resulted to the colony from the Ordinance of 1857′”[A]

[Footnote A: An extreme form of C.D. Acts, without parallel in any other place under British rule.]

“In 1865 (after eight years’ experience) he wrote, ‘the _good_ the Ordinance does _is undoubted_; but the good it might do, were all the unlicensed brothels suppressed, was incalculable.'”

“In 1867 (after ten years’ experience) the _public_ was informed that the Ordinance had been ‘on trial for nearly ten years, and _had done singular service_.'”

_Yet in this very same year_–1867, April 19th–“Dr. Murray stated in an _Official Report not intended for publication_, but found by the Commission among other Government papers, and published,–‘That venereal disease has been _on the increase_, in spite of all that has been done to check it, _is no new discovery_; it has already been brought before the notice of His Excellency.'” (Report, p. 35, pars. 4 and 5.)

What is to be thought of the character of such reports for the _Public_, and such an _Official Report_, “not _intended_ to be _published_”?

This same Dr. Murray’s Annual Report for the _Public_ for 1867, was _actually put in evidence before the House of Lords’ Committee_ on venereal diseases–1868, page 135. “Venereal disease here has now become of _comparatively rare occurrence_.” Yet the _Army_ Report for the previous year (1866, page 115) states that “the admissions to hospital for venereal disease were 281 per 1000 men;” i.e., more than one man in four of the whole soldiery had been in hospital for this “comparatively rare” disease.

As regards the Navy, Dr. Murray says, “the evidence of Dr. Bernard, the Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals and Fleets, is even more satisfactory. He writes (Jan. 27), ‘I am enabled to say that true syphilis is now rarely contracted by our men in Hong Kong.'” Yet the “China station,” in which Hong Kong occupies so important a position, had at the time 25 per cent. more _secondary (true) syphilis than any other naval station in the world, except one (the S.E. American_); it had 101 of _primary (true) against 68 in the North American_, 31 in the S.E. American, and 22 in the Australian stations (_all unprotected_); and _gonorrhoea_ was _higher than in any other naval station in the world_. This _official_ misleading feature is to be found in other quarters than Dr. Murray’s Reports; for in the _Navy_ Report for 1873 (p. 282), Staff Surgeon Bennett, medical officer of the ship permanently stationed in Hong Kong, says–“Owing to the excellent working of the Contagious Diseases Acts, venereal complaints in the colony are reduced _to a minimum_. The _few cases_ of syphilis are chiefly due to private prostitutes not known to the police.”

In a representation made to the Secretary of State by W.H. Sloggett, Inspector of Certified Hospitals, October 7, 1879, we get an exact account of what led to the passage of the Contagious Diseases Ordinance of 1857. He says: “In 1857, owing to the very strong representations which had been made to the Governor during the previous three years, by different naval officers in command of the China Station, of the prevalence and severity of venereal disease at Hong Kong, a Colonial Ordinance for checking these diseases was passed in November of that year.”

When Lord Kimberley was Secretary of State he wrote (on September 29, 1880) Governor Hennessy of Hong Kong in defence of the Ordinance of 1857,–at least as to the motive expressed by Mr. Labouchere for consenting to the passing of the Ordinance: “These humane intentions of Mr. Labouchere have been frustrated by various causes, among which must be included that the police have from the first been allowed to look upon this branch of their work as beneath their dignity, while the sanitary regulation of the brothels appears from recent correspondence to have been almost entirely disregarded.” To this Governor Hennessy replied: “On the general question of the Government system of licensing brothels, your Lordship seems to think that I have not sufficiently recognized that the establishment of the system was a police measure, intended to give the Hong Kong Government some hold upon the brothels, in hope of improving the condition of the inmates, and of checking the odious species of slavery to which they are subjected. I can, however, assure your Lordship, whatever good intentions may have been entertained and expressed by Her Majesty’s Government when the licensing system was established, that it has been worked for a different purpose.” … “The real purpose of the brothel legislation here has been, in the odious words so often used, the provision of clean Chinese women for the use of the British soldiers and sailors of the Royal Navy in this Colony.”

The real object of the Ordinance, commended by the Secretary of State as answering to “an urgent claim” on the part of slaves “upon the active protection of the Government,” the operation of which was placed in the hands of the so-called Protector of Chinese, was plainly described in the preamble of the Ordinance as making “provisions for checking the spread of venereal diseases within this Colony.” No other object was stated.

The intention of the Government was that the Ordinance should be worked by the aid of the whole police force; but as early as 1860 we find the Protector, or Registrar General, D.R. Caldwell, reporting to the Colonial Secretary that “upon the first promulgation of the Ordinance, the Superintendent of Police manifested an indisposition to interfere in the working of the Ordinance, from a belief that it opened a door to corruption to the members of the force under him.” Later, Mr. May, the superintendent of police alluded to, said before the Commission of Inquiry: “That he would not have permitted the police to have anything to do with the control or supervision of brothels under the Ordinance, being apart from the general objects of police duties, and from the great probability of its leading to corruption.” Let this be told to Mr. May’s lasting credit. Whereupon, on the Registrar General’s application, the office of Inspector of Brothels was created.

We have referred several times to a certain Commission which was appointed to inquire into the working of the Contagious Diseases Ordinances of Hong Kong. This Commission was appointed by Governor Hennessy on November 12th, 1877, and was composed of William Keswick, unofficial member of the Legislative Council, Thomas Child Hallyer, Esq., “one of Her Majesty’s Counsel for the Colony,” and Ernest John Eitel, M.A., Ph.D., Chinese Interpreter to the Governor. We shall have frequent cause to quote from this Commission’s report, and as it is the only Commission we shall quote, we shall henceforth speak of it merely as “the Commission.” This report says, concerning inspectors of brothels: “These posts, although fairly lucrative, do not seem to be coveted by men of very high class.” For instance, we find in a report dated December 11, 1873, by the captain superintendent of police, Mr. Dean, and the acting Registrar General, Mr. Tonnochy, that they were not prepared to recommend anyone for an appointment to a vacancy which had just occurred, owing to the reluctance of the police inspectors to accept “the office of Inspector of Brothels.” Mr. Creagh says, that the post is not one “which any of our inspectors would take. They look down on the post.” “They are a class very inferior to those who would be inspectors with us. I don’t believe anyone wishes it, but constables, or perhaps sergeants, would take the post for the pay.” Mr. Dean would also “object to its being made a part of the duty of the general police to enforce the Contagious Diseases Acts.” “My inspectors and sergeants,” he says, “would so strongly object to taking the office that I should be unable to get anyone on whom I could rely…. The Inspector of Police looks down on the Inspector of Brothels.” Dr. Ayres tells us: “You cannot get men fitted for the work at present salaries, and you have to put tremendous powers into the hands of men like those we have.”

Yet into the hands of men lower in character than the lowest of the police force was committed, in large part, the operation of Ordinance 12, 1857, recommended by Mr. Labouchere as a sort of benevolent scheme for the defense of poor Chinese slaves under the British flag, who had “an urgent claim on the protection of Government.”



Dr. Bridges, the Acting Attorney General at Hong Kong, who had framed the Contagious Diseases Ordinance of 1857, had given an assurance concerning it expressed in the following words: “There will be less difficulty in dealing with prostitution in this Colony than with the same in any other part of the world, as I believe the prostitutes here to be almost, without exception, Chinese who would be thankful to be placed under medical control of any kind; that few if any of the prostitutes are free agents, having been brought up for the purposes of prostitution by the keepers of brothels, and that whether as regards the unfortunate creatures themselves, the persons who obtain a living by these prostitutes, or the Chinese inhabitants in general, there are fewer rights to be interfered with here, less grounds for complaint by the parties controlled, and fewer prejudices on the subject to be shocked among the more respectable part of the community than could be found elsewhere.” Mr. D.R. Caldwell, Protector, confirmed these views. But the views of the Chinese themselves had never been elicited, and immediately such prejudice was aroused among them that it was considered wise to subject only those houses resorted to by foreigners and their inmates, to medical surveillance. Says the report of the Commission: “So great has been the detestation of the Chinese of the system of personal examination, that it has been found practically impossible to apply it to purely Chinese houses of ill-fame [that is, places resorted to by Chinese only], to the present day.” At once, then, the business of the Ordinance, as far as disease was concerned, became restricted to a fancied “protection” of foreign men given over to the practice of vice. But, as we show elsewhere on the statements of the officials who operated the Ordinance (made confidentially, but not intended for publication), that object was not realized, and in the very nature of things, never will be, by such measures. When the State guarantees the service of “clean women” to men of vicious habits, it actively encourages those vicious habits; and since these diseases are the direct outcome of such vice, the more the vice itself is encouraged the more the diseases resulting therefrom will increase in frequency.

The treachery and perfidy of the profession that this Ordinance was in large measure one intended to “protect” poor slaves, is clearly exposed in this letter of Dr. Bridges. “There will be less difficulty” in operating the measure because the women are not “free agents!” The very success of the measure, their own language betrays, depended upon their servitude. Then were they likely to strike a blow at that slavery? Their measure would, then, of course, lead to an increase and not to a mitigation of the hardships of servitude. They had “fewer rights to be interfered with” in Hong Kong “than could he found elsewhere.” Away with a measure of “protection” which finds its chief source of gratulation in the curtailed rights of the “protected!”

The much-vaunted “protection” of the slaves, through medical surveillance, became limited at once to a certain class who associated with foreigners, whose interests were supposed to be “protected” by that surveillance. Nevertheless from that time almost to the present hour whenever it has been proposed to discontinue the compulsory medical examination, officials have raised a cry of pity for the poor slave-girls who would be left without “protection.”

Since each registered house was to pay a fee to the Colonial Government, which was turned into the fund to meet general expenses (although the express reading of the Ordinance was against this practice), this gave additional reason for registering all immoral houses, beyond their being listed for the compulsory examinations, hence all houses of prostitution were registered whether for foreigners or for Chinese.

The Commission’s report says: “This Ordinance seems to have been worked with energy by all concerned. Dr. Murray, who assumed charge of the Lock Hospital on the 1st of May, 1857,… discharged his duty with undoubted zeal. The Magistrates certainly threw no obstruction in the way of the working of the Ordinance; and the Government having, at a very early stage, determined that its efficacy ‘should have a fair trial,’ it doubtless received it at all hands.”

During the ten years this law was in operation, there were 411 prosecutions, of which 140 were convictions for keeping unregistered houses, or houses outside the prescribed bounds. Fines were inflicted for these offenses and others, adding considerably to the amount collected regularly each month from each registered house. The Superintendent of Police, having refused to allow his force to operate as inspectors of brothels, in 1860 the first inspector was appointed, and he engaged an English policeman named Barnes to render services as an informer. This man brought charges in two cases, as to unlicensed (unregistered) brothels. The second case ended in acquittal, manifestly on the ground that the charges were trumped up. In the same year another inspector, Williams, acted as informer, and secured a conviction against a woman. Later, an inspector by the name of Peam, who succeeded Williams, employed police constables as informers, and lent them money for the purpose. All these performed their tasks in “plain clothes,” as was the practice through subsequent years. In 1861, constables (Europeans) acted frequently as informers, and in one instance the Acting Registrar General,–in other words, the “Protector,”–played the role of informer. He took a European constable with him to a native house and caused him to commit adultery there, and on this evidence prosecuted the woman for keeping an unregistered brothel. During this year, an inspector named Johnson presented a woman with a counterfeit dollar, and because she accepted the money she was condemned as a keeper of an unregistered house, and fined twenty-five dollars. This sum she would be less able to pay than the average American woman ten times as much, so low are wages in that country.

In 1862, an inspector of brothels, a policeman, and the Bailiff of the Supreme Court, acted as informers; also in eleven cases European constables in plain clothes, and on two occasions a master of a ship. In 1863 the sworn belief alone of the inspector secured convictions in 10 cases. In 1864, as far as the records show, public money was first used by informers to induce women to commit adultery with them, in order to secure their conviction, fine them, and enroll their abodes as registered brothels. Inspector Jones and Police Sergeant Daly, having spent ten dollars in self-indulgence in native houses, the Government reimbursed them and punished the women.

In 1865, on three separate occasions, the “Protector,” (Acting Registrar General Deane), “declared” houses, nine in number. Soon any sort of testimony was gladly welcomed, and Malays, East Indians and Chinese all turned informers, and money was not only given them with which to open the way for debauchery, but awards upon conviction of the women with whom they consorted. “The Chinese used for this work were chiefly Lokongs, [native police constables], Inspector Peterson’s servant and a cook at No. 8 Police Station. The depositions show that in at least five cases the police and their informers received rewards. Three times their exertions were remunerated by sums of twenty dollars, although in one of these instances the evidence was apparently volunteered. Arch and Collins [Europeans] once got five dollars each, and Chinese constables received similar amounts.” In many of these cases the immorality on the part of the informers who brought the charges seems to have been unblushingly stated. “The zeal of inspectors of brothels and informers had been stimulated by occasional solid rewards from the Bench, and the numerous prosecutions commenced seldom failed to end in conviction and substantial punishment.”

Ten years after the Ordinance of 1857 had been in operation, the Registrar General, C.C. Smith, wrote:

“There is another matter connected with the brothels, licensed and unlicensed, in Hong Kong, which almost daily assumes a graver aspect. I refer to what is no less than the trafficking in human flesh between the brothel-keepers and the vagabonds of the Colony. Women are bought and sold in nearly every brothel in the place. They are induced by specious pretexts to come to Hong Kong, and then, after they are admitted into the brothels, such a system of espionage is kept over them, and so frightened do they get, as to prevent any application to the police. They have no relatives, no friends to assist them, and their life is such that, unless goaded into unusual excitement by a long course of ill-treatment, they sink down under the style of life they are forced to adopt, and submit patiently to their masters. But cases have occurred where they have run away, and placed themselves in the hands of the police; who, however, can do nothing whatever toward punishing the offenders for the lack of evidence, the women being afraid to tell their tale in open court. Women have, it is true, willingly allowed themselves to be sold for some temporary gain; but that brothel-keepers should be allowed to enter into such transactions is of serious moment. I have myself tried to fix such a case on more than one brothel-keeper, but failed to do so, though there was no doubt of the transaction, as I held the bill of sale. The only mode of action I had under the circumstances was to cancel the license of the house. In the interest of humanity, too, it might be enacted that any brothel-keeper should be liable to a fine for having on his or her premises any child under 15 years of age.”

This statement as to the increase of slavery under this Ordinance is just what might have been expected, but it is especially valuable as made by the Registrar General who knew most about the matter, and it contains most damaging admissions against himself, for as the Colonial Secretary, W.T. Mercer, states in a foot-note in the State document printing the Registrar General’s statement: “Surely the bill of sale here would have been sufficient evidence.” It is plainly to be seen from such statements that after a few efforts to take advantage of anti-slavery laws at Hong Kong, after a few appeals to the police for protection and liberty, slave girls would learn by terrible experience to cease all such efforts. Think of the fate of a girl when thrust back into the hands of her cruel master or mistress, by the heartless indifference of the “Protector,” after having ventured to go to the length of producing her bill of sale into slavery. We should remember these things, when we hear of American officials going through Chinatown and asking the girls if they wish to come away, and in case they do not at once declare they wish it, reporting that there are no slave girls in Chinatown. These poor creatures have been trained in a hard school, and have no reason to believe that any foreign officials have the least interest in helping to obtain their liberty. And if they cannot secure protection by complaint, far better never admit that there is reason for complaint.

Note the calm admission of the Registrar General that nothing was being done to prevent the rearing of children in these registered brothels, where every detail was subject to Government surveillance. “It might be enacted,” says the “Protector,” that such a brothel-keeper should be “liable to a fine!” But why, in the face of such frank acknowledgement of the existence of slavery, were not the Queen’s proclamation against slavery, and the many other enactments of the same sort, enforced? Listen, and we will tell why. These officials believed _vice was necessary_, and as there was no class of “fallen women,” in our understanding of the term, the Oriental prostitute being a literal slave, then _slavery was necessary_ when it ministered to the vices of men. Hence the Government-registered brothels were filled with women slaves. As to the unregistered brothels, the “protected woman” protected that, and also the nursery of purchased and stolen children being brought up and trained for the slave market, excepting those children which, as we have seen, were being trained in the registered houses. If an officer attempted to enter the house of a “protected woman,” he was told: “This is not a brothel. This is the private family residence of Mr. So and So,” mentioning the name of some foreigner. Thus the foreigners who kept Chinese mistresses furnished, in effect, that protection to slavery that led the Chinese to go forward so boldly in their business of buying and kidnaping children. Even when women were brought into court for keeping unregistered brothels, and although they were keeping them, yet if they could show that they were “protected women,” they had a fair show of being acquitted.

Legislative enactments directed to the object of making the practice of vice healthy for men are called, in popular language, “Contagious Diseases Acts,” because that was the first name given them. But of late years all such laws have met with such bitter opposition, that, like an old criminal, the measures seek to hide themselves under all sorts of _aliases_. Mrs. Josephine Butler describes such legislation in general in the following simple, lucid manner:

“By this law, policemen,–not the local police, but special Government police, in plain clothes,–are employed to look after all the poor women and girls in a town and its neighborhood. These police spies have power to take up any woman they please, on _suspicion_ that she is not a moral woman, and to register her name on a shameful register as a prostitute. She is then forced to submit to the horrible ordeal of a personal examination of a kind which cannot be described here. It is an act on the part of the Government doctor such as would be called an indecent or criminal assault if any other man were to force it upon a woman. And it is the _State_ which forces this indecent assault on the persons of the helpless daughters of the poor.

“If a woman refuses to submit to it, she is punished by imprisonment, with or without hard labor, _until_ she does submit.

“If, after she has endured this torture, she is found to be healthy and well, she is set free, with a certificate that she is _fit to practice prostitution_; but observe, she is never more a free woman, for her name is on the register of Government prostitutes, and she is strictly under the eye of the police, and is bound to come up periodically,–it may be weekly or fortnightly,–to be again outraged.

“If she is found to have signs of disease, she is sent to a hospital, which is practically a prison, where she is kept as long as the doctors please. She may be kept for weeks or months, without any choice of her own. When cured, she is again set free with her certificate. During the first years of this law, a certificate on paper was given to every woman who had passed through this cruel ordeal; on this paper was the name of the woman, and the date of the last examination. The Abolitionist party, however, represented so strongly the shame of the whole proceeding, that the Government ordered that the piece of paper or ticket should not be given to the women any longer. But this change made no real difference, for it was well known that the women were forced to submit to the outrage of enforced examination…. You know that every criminal,–murderer, or thief, or any other,–has the benefit of the law; he or she is allowed an open trial, at which witnesses are called, and a legal advocate appears for the defense of the accused. But these State slaves are allowed no trial. It is enough that the police suspects and accuses them; then they are treated as criminals…. It will be clear to you that this law is not for simple healing, as Christ would have us to heal, caring for all, whatever their character or whatever their disease. This law is invented to _provide beforehand_ that men may be able to sin without bodily injury (if that were possible, which it is not). If a burglar, who had broken into my house and stolen my goods, were to fall and be hurt, I would be glad to get him into a hospital and have him nursed and cured; but I would not put a ladder up against my window at night and leave the windows open in order that he might steal my goods without danger of breaking his neck.

“You will see clearly, also, the cowardliness and unmanliness of this law, inasmuch as it sacrifices women to men, the weak to the strong; that it deprives the woman of all that she has in life, of liberty, character, law, even of life itself (for it is a process of slow murder to which she is subjected), for the supposed benefit of men who are mean enough to avail themselves of this provision of lust.

“Besides being grossly unjust, as between men and women, this law is a piece of class legislation of an extreme kind. The position and wealth of men of the upper classes place the women belonging to them above any chance of being accused of prostitution. Ladies who ride in carriages through the street at night are in no danger of being molested. But what about working women? what about the daughters, sisters and wives of working men, out, it may be, on an errand of mercy at night? and what, most of all, of that girl whose father, mother, friends are dead or far away, who is struggling hard, in a hard world, to live uprightly and justly by the work of her own hands,–is she in no danger of this law? Lonely and friendless, and poor, is she in no danger of a false accusation from malice or from error? especially since under this law _homeless_ girls are particularly marked out as just subjects for its operation; and if she is accused, what has she to rely on, under God, except that of which this law deprives her, the appeal to be tried ‘by God and my country,’ by which it is understood that she claims the judicial means of defense to which the law of the land entitles her?

“I will only add that this law has a fatally corrupting influence over the male youth of every country where it is in force. It warps the conscience, and confuses the sense of right and wrong. When the State raises this immoral traffic into the position of a lawful industry, superintended by Government officials, what are the young and ignorant to think? They cannot believe that that which the Government of the country allows, and makes rules for, and superintends, is really wrong.”

Such measures as these have acquired a foothold in the United States more than once, but have been driven out again. They are proposed every year almost, at some State Legislature, and often have been proposed at several different legislatures during a single year. They are in operation, to some extent at least, under the United States flag at Hawaii, in the Philippines, and at Porto Rico. The enforcement of the Acts must depend to a large extent upon the co-operation of the male fornicator with the police and officers of the law, and places good women and girls terribly in the power of malicious or designing libertines.

It appears from official records, that in Hong Kong, during six months in 1886-7, out of 139 women denounced by British soldiers and sailors as having communicated contagion, 102 were on examination found free from disease, and only 37 to be diseased; and during a similar period in 1887-8, out of 103 women that were denounced, 101 were on examination found free from disease and only two diseased. We can judge from this of both the worthlessness of the measure for tracing diseased women, and the mischievousness of the measure as an aid to libertines in getting girls they are endeavoring to seduce so injured in reputation that they can easily capture their prey.

As a sanitary measure, the Acts have invariably proved a failure, as shown by honestly handled statistics. There have, to be sure, been many doctors, some of high scientific qualifications, who have produced statistics strongly tending to prove the sanitary benefits of such measures on superficial survey. But these statistics have afterwards been shown to be mistakenly handled or designedly manipulated to make such a showing. This is not a medical book, and any extended treatment of figures as to disease would be entirely out of place in it, so we will content ourselves by saying that during late years physicians of prominence from every part of the world have assembled twice at Brussels for Conferences in regard to this matter. These physicians are in large numbers Continental doctors, the very ones who have had most to do in enforcing such measures. Each time the number of opponents to the Contagious Diseases Acts has rapidly increased, after listening to the testimony from all sides as to their inutility; in fact, the whole force of opinion at each of these Conferences, in 1899 and 1902, was against State Regulation, though there was a division of opinion as to the substitute for it.

In 1903, the Minister of the Interior of France, the country where these Acts originated, nominated an extra-Parliamentary Commission to go thoroughly into these questions. This Commission held its numerous sittings in 1905, and in the end by almost a two-thirds’ majority condemned the existing system of regulation in France, and furthermore rejected the alternative proposal of notification with compulsory treatment, by sixteen votes to one. In reporting on the Conferences held in Brussels, the _Independence Belge_ said, in a leading article: “Regulation is visibly decaying, and the fact is the more striking because the country that instituted it (France) is at present the one that meets it with the most ardent hostility.”



In 1866 the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell, determined upon the repeal of Ordinance 12, 1857, in order to inaugurate “a more vigorous policy of coercion,” (says the Commission’s report): “The key note of the new regime was struck by the Governor’s first minute on the subject, dated 20th October, 1866, in which he wrote he was ‘anxious early to introduce to the Council an amended Brothel Ordinance, conferring _necessarily_ almost despotic powers on the Registrar General.” … Be it said to the honor of Attorney General (now Sir Julian) Pauncefote, that in the face of this he urges the most weighty objections to the policy of “subjecting persons to fine and imprisonment without the safeguards which surround the administration of justice in a public and open court.” But these objections were not allowed to prevail.

It appears that some hesitation was felt on the part of the home authorities in giving approval to the new ordinance. It may have been the warning given by Attorney General Pauncefote, it may have been something else. Whatever it was, the Commission informs us: “The Ordinance 10 of 1867 received its final sanction when the conclusion arrived at by the Colonial Government was before the home authorities, showing that in the event of the ordinance becoming law, _revenue would be derived_ from the tainted source of prostitution among the Chinese.” (The italics are the authors’).

Ordinance 10, 1867 now came into operation, with the following additional powers in the hands of the “Protector” of Chinese, the Registrar General:

1st, Not only were keepers of unregistered houses to be fined or sent to prison, but the women–“held in practical slavery for the purposes of prostitution”–when found in unregistered houses were also subject to fine and imprisonment.

2nd, The Registrar-General, otherwise the “Protector” of Chinese, could break into any house suspected of being a brothel, and arrest the keeper thereof without warrant. And he could authorize his underlings to do the same.

3rd, The Registrar General could exercise both judicial and executive powers in the prosecution of the duties of his office.

4th, All outdoor prostitutes could be arrested without warrant, fined and imprisoned.

The new law possessed one virtue over the old. It frankly, and more honestly, employed the word “licensed,” where the old law said “registered,” brothels.

The report of the Commission says:

“Although the new Ordinance conferred such extensive and unusual powers on the Registrar General and Superintendent of Police as to breaking into and entering houses and arresting keepers without warrant, no serious difficulty whatever, so far as the records show,–and we have paid special attention to the point,–seems to have been experienced under the previous enactments in bringing the keepers of such houses before the court…. Nor can we in the second place find among the foregoing records proof of the necessity of the transfer to the Registrar General of the judicial powers…. As a matter of fact, witnesses do not seem to have been at all squeamish in divulging repulsive details in open Court, nor, on the other hand, do the magistrates ever seem to have shown too exacting a disposition as to the nature or amount of the evidence they required to sustain convictions; and the astonishing system of detection which had grown up had met, so far as we can see, with neither discouragement nor remonstrance.”

We pause to lift our hearts to God in prayer before venturing to lift the curtain and disclose even a faint outline of the reign of terror now instituted over poor, horror-stricken Chinese women of the humbler ranks of life at Hong Kong. But, in order that we may understand the conditions under which the slave women coming to our Pacific Coast have lived in times past, the recital is necessary. Happy for us if we never needed to know any of these dark chapters of human history and human wrongs! Sad indeed for the thoughtless, and bringing only harm, if such an account as we have to give should be read merely out of curiosity or for entertainment. There is either ennoblement or injury in what we have to say, according to the spirit brought to the task of reading it. Think quietly, then, dear reader, for one moment. From what motive will you read our recital? We do not write what is lawful to the merely inquisitive. Then, will you continue to read from a worthier motive? If not, we pray you, close the book, and pass it on to someone more serious minded. Our message is only for those who will hear with the desire to help. But do not say: “I am too ignorant as to what to do, I am too weak, or I am too lowly, and without talents or influence.” No, you are not. There is a place for you to help. God will show it to you, if this book does not suggest a practicable plan for you. What we wish to accomplish, and what we must accomplish, if at all, by just such aid as you can give, sums itself up in this: We must make our officers of the law understand that _the question of slavery has been settled once for all_ in the United States, by the Civil War, and we will have none of it again. It will never be tolerated under the Stars and Stripes; and when you can think of nothing else to do, you can always go aside and cry to the Judge of all the earth to “execute righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed,” as He has promised to do, if we but call upon Him.

Now read on with a heart full of courage, not caring for the haunting pain that will be left when you lay the book aside. What others have had to suffer, you can at least endure to hear about, in order to put a check upon like suffering in the future, and in our own land, too. A country bathed in blood as ours has once been has met already its terrible judgment for not throttling the monster, Slavery, in its infancy, before it cost so much blood and treasure. We will be wiser another time, and refuse to trifle with such great wrongs. We cannot brave the Omnipotent wrath in a second judgment for the same offense, lest He say to us: “Ye have not hearkened unto Me, in proclaiming liberty, everyone to his brother, and every man to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim a liberty unto you, saith the Lord, to the sword and to the pestilence and to the famine.”

From the first days of the enactment of this measure, and all the way through until 1877, the inspectors of brothels had standing orders to enter any native house that they suspected of containing any women of loose character, and arrest its inmates in accordance with the following plan: The inspector would secure an accomplice, called an informer, or often more than one. The accomplice would enter a native house plentifully supplied with marked money out of the Secret Service Fund. This accomplice was often a friend or relative of the family he called upon. He would often offer them a feast and drinks, and send to a near-by restaurant and procure them at Government expense. After feasting and drinking, he would try to induce some woman of the house to consort with him, showing her a sufficient sum of money to fairly dazzle her eyes. This he could well afford to do, for the Government put the money in his hands to offer, and if the woman accepted, it would not be a loss to the Government, for it would be taken back again afterwards. Perhaps some poor half-starved creature would yield to the tempter; perhaps some heathen man would press his wife to accept the offer, in his greed for the money; perhaps some foolish young girl would think she had suddenly come into great fortune in having a man of such great wealth proposing marriage to her. It must not be forgotten that the poorest people in China often marry in a manner which is _almost devoid of all ceremony_, and yet it is considered perfectly right and honorable, and the couple remain faithful to each other afterwards. It is not unlikely, then, a young woman might, with the consent of her parents, look upon such a proposal as this as about to eventuate in real marriage, if it were so put before her. No such thing as courting ever takes place in China, previous to marriage. In other cases, doubtless, the informer who had thus intruded himself for the basest reasons into a native house, might really find a woman of loose character there. It were certainly more to the credit of such a woman that she was in hiding, and preferred it to flaunting her shame in a licensed house of infamy. What business have Governments hounding down these women, tearing away their last shred of decency and obliging them if inclining to go wrong to sink at once to the lowest depths of infamy? But that is what the attempt to localize vice in one section of a town, or to legalize it always means. When the informer at Hong Kong had insinuated himself into a native house and by means of the bait of “marked money” caught a victim and sinned with her, at once he threw open the window and summoned the Inspector, who was in waiting outside, who would rush in and arrest all the women and girls in the house, down to children often only 13 or 14 years old. This was not all according to law, but it seems to have been the regular practice. Says Mr. Lister, who was Registrar General for the first year after the Ordinance of 1867 came into operation: “As a general rule, the first thing I knew of a case of an unlicensed brothel coming before me was the finding of a string of women in my office in the morning.” “Almost despotic powers” had been put into the hands of the “Registrar General,” and these were some of the results. The “marked money” that had caught the victim would now be sanctimoniously taken away from her and restored to the Secret Service Fund. The woman would be fined or imprisoned, and the other inmates of the house put through trial as accused of being “common prostitutes” and inmates of an unlicensed brothel, and if the Registrar General so decided, the house from which they came declared in the Government Gazette as a licensed house of prostitution. The keepers of licensed brothels, slave-dealers, procurers and such characters hung around the court room to help these women pay their fines, and so get them under bonds to work off these fines by prostitution. Sometimes the women sold their children instead of themselves. If boys, for “adoption,” as it is called; a form of slavery which is permitted in Hong Kong. If girls, into domestic slavery or worse, probably with the thought that they could buy them back soon, but if the mother herself went the daughter would be sure to be caught by kidnapers, or fall into prostitution anyway, as the only means she would have of getting along without her mother’s protection. Mr. Lister said before the Commission: “I became suspicious of the whole system of convictions against houses for Chinese. I was certain that the informers could not be depended on for one moment. My inspector employed his own boatmen as informers. I became convinced that _I could lock up the whole Chinese female population by this machinery_.” Married men were often knowingly hired on Government money to commit adultery with native women, then the money would be taken away from the woman and she could not even have that toward her fine, while the man would be given a further reward for hunting down an “unlicensed woman.” Quickly, strong organizations of brothel-keepers were formed, and the whole infernal system from that day to this of brothel slavery passed under the secret management of “capitalists”–Chinese merchants of large means.

We have made a general statement as to abuses; now for some specified details. Sometimes the inspectors took their turn as informers, and often men of higher official rank did so, even to the Registrar General himself. In 1868, Inspectors Peterson and Jamieson visited houses as informers, dressed in plain clothes. Jamieson went once disguised as a soldier. Inspectors Burns, Sieir and Deane were also employed as informers, this year. In one case, a woman escaped the persecution of an informer who had intruded into her house by means of ladder; in another case, a woman risked her life getting out of the window upon a flimsy shade adjusted to keep the sun out; in another, a woman managed to escape to the roof; one poor creature let herself down to the ground from an upper window by means of a spout. When women were ready to take such risks as these (and undoubtedly the official records would mention only a few such cases out of the many) rather than be compelled to keep open houses of prostitution, one would have thought it would have counted as some proof of the respectable character of the women,–but it does not seem to have been reckoned so. The women were generally driven into the business of keeping an open house of prostitution anyway, and the Government benefited in cash by just so much more.

“It may be mentioned here,” says the report of the Commission, from which we cull these cases, “that from this date (July 6th, 1868) the practice has apparently prevailed of apprehending all the women found in unlicensed brothels” (in more correct language, those houses penetrated into by informers and reported to the Registrar as brothels). These accusations were not always true, by any means. Seven women were apprehended at one time during this year, on the charge of a watchman, that they kept and were inmates of an unlicensed brothel, “the chief witness being a child 10 years old … five of the women were married, and two, children of 13 and 14 years old, are described as unmarried.” They were all, even the children, convicted, and sent to the Lock Hospital for the indecent examination, in order to determine if they were in proper health to practice vice. Afterwards the Registrar concluded that the case had been got up by the watchman to extort money from the women. But the establishment of their innocence did not put them right again. Think of the horrible ordeal and the dirty court details through which these young girls had been put, on the testimony of a child of ten, and of a watchman determined that they should learn to give him money when he demanded it, or he would drive them into prostitution. One wonders how many hundreds of respectable families were thus bled of their small incomes by the vile informers who were being rewarded by Government for their extortion. Imagine the terror that respectable Chinese women suffered, knowing that any man might denounce them, out of malice, and thereby reduce them to the very worst conceivable form of slavery! Within a few years, nearly all the respectable Chinese women had disappeared from Hong Kong. Chief Inspector Whitehead testified before the Commission: “When an unlicensed brothel [i.e., a native house accused of being such] is broken up, the women have to resort to prostitution in most cases for a living.” During 1869, one poor woman signed a bond to deport herself for five years rather than be taken to the Lock Hospital. But the “protected women,” with their nursery of children they were raising for brothel slavery, being the mistresses of foreigners, were not persecuted in this manner, so, by a kind of mad infatuation the Government seemed bent on encouraging and developing immoral women and driving decent women either into prostitution, or, by the reign of terror, out of the Colony. In 1869, five women were charged before the Registrar General, and three of them were discharged as innocent. Then the Registrar General decided _to make the punishment of the first of the remaining two depend upon the state of health of the second_. This second was examined and found diseased, and in consequence of that fact, the first one was fined fifty dollars or two months’ imprisonment! The Commission speaks of this as a “somewhat curious” case. We wonder how the punished woman described it. Afterwards, the case was reopened, and “evidence was given calculated to throw the gravest doubts on the credibility of the informers” against these five women. What was then done? Were the informers punished for giving false evidence designed to work incalculable injury to five innocent women? Not at all. A few days later the same informers were employed again as witnesses, and secured the conviction of three more women. In one case, in 1870, it was proved that an informer had entered a house and made an indecent assault upon a woman, doubtless expecting to get his reward as usual. But he was fined ten pounds instead. But how many others may have done the same thing under circumstances where a sufficient number of witnesses to the assault could not be produced. And then, the man would be rewarded and the woman forced at once to take up her residence in a licensed house of shame. The Acting Registrar General played the part of informer during 1870, and punished as judge the woman he accused before himself,–for the law, as we have said, that came into force in 1867 gave the Registrar General both prosecuting and judicial powers. He probably also induced the woman on Government money to commit adultery with him. Then as the judge he would confiscate the money again, and give her a fine of fifty dollars instead. We wonder if he likewise gave himself a “substantial award from the bench,” as the Registrar General was accustomed to give other informers when they succeeded in getting evidence sufficient for conviction. It is noticed by the Commission that one woman this same year escaped by the roof at the peril of her life. No one knows how many more may have done the same.

An inspector, Peterson, and a constable, Rylands, each induced women on the street to accept money of them, and these women were punished as prostitutes in hiding and not registered. Two prosecutions during this same year are mentioned as having been instituted from malice. One woman jumped from her window and severely injured herself, trying to escape Inspector Douglass. One woman dared to assault an informer who was after her, and was punished by ten days’ imprisonment, with hard labor. Inspector Jamieson brought charges against three women for obstructing him in the discharge of his official duties, and was himself found guilty of illegal conduct.

In the records of 1871 is the case of two men who had a falling out, Alfred Flarey and Police Constable Charles Christy, for some reason not mentioned. Each of these men kept a private mistress. Flarey went to an inspector, and obtained money to be used in tempting the mistress of Christy. He then accused her before the courts, she was condemned, and paid a fine of ten dollars. On the following day, Christy appeared in court against the mistress of Flarey, with two fellow-policemen, to describe their own vileness in order to get revenge on Flarey by depriving him of his mistress and reducing her to the level of a common prostitute. The woman was discharged, indicating that it was a trumped up case. The Commission’s report, in describing the details declares: “The law, in these two instances, was put in motion obviously for the vilest of purposes.”

In 1872, Inspector Lee, who had become an inspector in 1870, and of whom we shall have more to say, acted himself as informer, and employed his boy twice in the same capacity. Inspector Horton acted as informer eleven times, and Inspector King four times. During this year the Registrar General so far forgot that there was even a sanitary pretext for the Ordinance for the law he was set to operate as to employ as an informer one Vincent Greaves, whom he knew to be diseased. From about this time on, many cases of conviction were secured against women where it was evident the matter had gone no further than that they had accepted the marked money of the informers, or, as was actually proved in some cases, this marked Government money had been secreted by the informers in the rooms occupied by women. Inspector Lee in one instance found the money on a table in a room into which an informer had insinuated himself. The woman denied having ever accepted it of him, yet she was convicted on that evidence alone. With rewards offered to men of the lowest character, who would secure the conviction of women so that the latter could be forced into the life of open prostitution, all the presumptive evidence should have turned such a case as this against the informer. Many similar cases of the conviction of women of being keepers and inmates of secret brothels, were secured on this sort of evidence. One young girl of 14 was entrapped by marked money being found in her toilet table. The court records showed that this was the second time she had been entrapped in this manner. This second time she was convicted and sent to the Lock Hospital where, upon examination, exceptional conditions demonstrated beyond doubt that she was still a virgin. But what of the many young girls with whom exceptional conditions did not exist, when _they_ were brought to the examination table?

During the year 1873, two women were severely injured by jumping out of their windows to escape the informers. One fractured her leg.

The cook of Inspector King testified in the Registrar General’s court: “Yesterday I received orders of Mr. King to go to Wanchai, and see if I could catch some unlicensed prostitutes.” This man was employed, and his employer orders him off to this wicked business, and he must either obey or take his discharge. A Chinese servant ordered to go commit adultery by the man who employed him as his cook. These things were constantly done by employers of Chinese men. Yet these native servants are all married men, for they marry so young in the Orient. And Government money was furnished them besides to pay for the debauchery, and if they brought in a good case for prosecution they got a reward in money besides. So this cook is ordered off by his master to “catch some unlicensed prostitutes,” with the same _sang froid_ as though ordered to go catch some fish for dinner. The cook seemed to know where to get the most ardent assistance for the task his employer had set him, for he says: “I got the assistance of a man who is master of a licensed brothel in Wanchai.” To be sure; who would be so interested in capturing women and getting them condemned to go and live in a house licensed by the Government as the man in the town at the head of the licensed house? The cook was given a dollar as bait, with which to catch the woman. Inspector Lee, who followed up the men to make sure of the capture, found the dollar given by King to his cook “lying on the bed” in the room occupied by the women, and they were convicted on no other evidence than this and Lee’s “suspicions.”

Private Michael Smith of the 80th Regiment was given four dollars by Inspector Morton and instructed to go to a certain Mrs. Wright at her quarters, and try to debauch her; he drank brandy with her [at Government expense?] from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., but failed in his errand. Why did she not turn him out of the house? Women were frequently fined for daring to resent the aggressions of these informers. In one case a man was struck for trying to obstruct the arrest of a girl of 14, and later was punished. This girl was proved to be a virgin afterwards. Many women and girls, against whom there was no sufficient evidence, were sent to the Lock Hospital for examination in order to determine in that manner their character. In half-a-dozen cases or so, it is recorded that the result determined the virginity of the person. But such a test as this rests upon the accidental presence of an exceptional condition among even virgins, and what became of those who did not answer to the exceptional test, and yet were as pure as the rest? They would everyone of them be consigned to the fate of a brothel slave.

One informer, “with the assistance of public money, and in the interests of justice,” according to the Commission’s report, sinned with a child of fifteen in order to get her name on the register. Inspector Horton bargained for the deflowering of a virgin of 15, “in the interests of justice,” with the owner of the slave child. The child as well as the owner were then taken to the Lock Hospital, where the latter was proved to be a virgin. A Chinese informer consorted with a girl named Tai-Yau “against her will, which led to his being rewarded, and to her being fined one hundred dollars.” She was unable to pay the fine, and sold her little boy in part payment for it, in order to escape a life of prostitution.

But need we go into further painful details? There are hundreds more of such cases of cruel wrong on record, and God alone knows how many thousands of cases there are that have never been put on record. We only aim to give a case here and there in illustration of the many forms of cruelty practiced upon innocent women in order to force them into prostitution, and to demonstrate that brothel slavery at Hong Kong cannot truthfully be represented as the outcome of Chinese customs which foreign officials have found difficulty in altering.

But why should Americans be called upon to acquaint themselves with such loathsome details? In order that Americans may have some just conception of their duty toward the large number of these poor, unhappy slaves who have been brought from Hong Kong to their own country.



Sir John Pope Hennessy went to Hong Kong as Governor of the Colony in the early Spring of 1877. In the following October a tragedy occurred, which drew his attention to the administration of the Registrar General, and he set himself to the task of trying to right some of the wrongs of the Chinese women.

The case last mentioned in the previous chapter related to a woman by the name of Tai-Yau, whom an informer humbled “against her will,” which led to his being rewarded and her being fined $100, to pay which she sold her little boy. This seems to have been the only way open for her to escape a life of prostitution. To make this point clear, we will here insert the explanation of conditions given by Dr. Eitel in a communication for the information of Governor Hennessy at a little later period than the incident we are about to relate. He speaks of Chinese women who secretly practiced prostitution [but, as we have shown, many respectable Chinese women suffered also], as

“preyed upon by informers paid with Government money, who would first debauch such women and then turn against them, charging them before the magistrate under the Ordinance 10, 1867, before the Registrar General as keepers of unlicensed brothels in which case a heavy fine would be inflicted, to pay which these women used to sell their children, or sell themselves into bondage worse than ordinary slavery, to the keepers of brothels licensed by the Government. Whenever a so-called sly brothel was broken up these keepers would crowd the shroff’s office [money exchanger’s office] of the police court or the visiting room of the Government Lock Hospital to drive their heartless bargains, _which were invariably enforced with the weighty support of the inspectors of brothels_,[A] appointed by Government under the Contagious Diseases Ordinance. The more this Ordinance was enforced, the more this buying and selling of human flesh went on at the very doors of Government offices.”

[Footnote A: We italicise this to call attention to the active part officials took in encouraging slavery.]

We can then readily imagine Tai-Yau as sentenced to pay her fine of one hundred dollars, and nothing to pay with. The money exchanger’s office next the court room was crowded with slave-dealers, waiting to offer to pay the fines of such unhappy creatures, and she probably turned to them. If she were sent to jail what would become of her little boy? And if she sold herself to the licensed brothel-keepers, as the inspectors of brothels were urging her to do, the fate of her boy would be even worse. She could see a hope that if she sold the boy for “adoption,” a form of slavery the Hong Kong Government permitted, of which we will tell more,–then if she had her freedom she could at least hope to redeem him some time. So the little fellow was sold for about forty dollars, and she went away sixty dollars in debt,–probably to the brothel-keepers, who would never let her out of their sight until, through the debt and the interest thereon, they would in time be enabled to seize her as their slave. But she went out hoping for some honest way of earning the money, or else she would have bargained with them at once to work off the debt by prostitution. But what could a Chinese woman do in the face of such a debt? A painter’s wages at Hong Kong at this time were five dollars a month. A woman’s wages at any respectable occupation would not have been more than half that amount. Ten cents a day would be a fair computation. And all the time she would be trying to earn the money the debt would be increasing by the interest on it; and her little boy would increase more rapidly in value than in years.

All this occurred in November, 1876. About the first of October, 1877, nearly a year later, she engaged a single room for herself and a servant[A] at 42 Peel street, of a woman named Lau-a Yee. Mrs. Lau, the landlady, had the top floor of a little house. Another family had the first floor, and the street door leading up to Mrs. Lau’s apartments ended in a trap door which was shut down at night. There were also folding doors half way up the stairway, not reaching to the ceiling, however, that could be locked at night to make the place doubly secure from intruders. The little upper flat consisted of only three rooms. Mrs. Lau occupied the front room, and her servant woman slept on the floor in the passage-way, and took care of Mrs. Lau’s little child. This servant woman had a friend come over from Canton to spend the night with her and seek for employment. The middle room was occupied by Tai Yau, the woman who had sold her little boy into slavery, and her servant. The back room was vacant. Tai Yau was about twenty-six years old, and her servant nearly sixty.

[Footnote A: The evidence does not make it clear how so poor a woman should have a servant. Might she not in reality have been acting the part of “pocket-mother” to the girl?]

On the evening of October 16th, 1877, Inspector Lee gave ten one dollar bills to his interpreter, telling him to go out and use it in catching unlicensed women. The interpreter found two friends and gave one three dollars and the other seven dollars to help him in his errand. Think of it! The man to whom the three dollars were given was a worthless fellow who in his own words, lived “on his friends.” When he worked he earned about 14 cents a day. The other man to whom was given seven dollars for a night of pleasure, earned five dollars a month when he worked at his trade–painting.

These men went to an opium shop where they found a pander. Apparently they did not know where to find unlicensed women without his help. Two other men joined them, and they all went to No. 9 Lyndhurst Terrace, the interpreter lingering about in waiting somewhere outside. When two of the men learned that they had been brought with the purpose of using their testimony against the women they withdrew. There were three women in the house. One was of loose morals, or at any rate she trifled with temptation; the other two managed to withdraw. A supper of fowls, stuffed pigs’ feet, sausages, eggs, and plenty of native wine was brought in, and they feasted, the men getting under the influence of drink. A-Nam, the pander, went out and hunted up two more girls for the feast. Perhaps these suspected a plot, for they withdrew. Then A-Nam went again, and returned with Tai-Yau.

It was about nine o’clock when A-Nam came to 42 Peel street and called Tai Yau out. Mrs. Lau saw her go out with him, but was not uneasy, for she had seen him there before as a friend of Tai Yau. Is it not quite likely it was from him she borrowed the money? He was the kind of man whose profession would lead him to hang around the Registrar’s court in order to get on the track of unlicensed women and to get them in his power. If such were the case, and she owed him money, she would be terribly in his power.[A] She went away with him to the feast near by at No. 9 Lyndhurst Terrace, and at twelve o’clock she returned in company with A-Nam and a strange man. Mrs. Lau was up and worshipping in her room. She came and said to Tai Yau: “Who is this?” seeing the strange man sitting on a chair. “What is this strange man doing here?” Tai Yau replied, “Oh, he is a shopman and is my husband.”

[Footnote A: Chief Inspector Whitehead testified before the Commission: “When an unlicensed brothel is broken up the women have to resort in most cases to prostitution for a living.” Though the wrong done Tai Yau had been “against her will,” yet it had brought her into court upon the charge of being a “common prostitute,” and thrown her heavily into debt. It is not unlikely she now found it almost beyond her power to resist becoming enslaved as a prostitute.]

The name of the man with A-Nam was A-Kan, and A-Kan had been a witness against her when she had been condemned before and fined $100. Now he was here in her room again at this time of night, with the man who had brought them together.

Meanwhile Inspector Lee and the interpreter who had given this A-Kan seven dollars to entrap an unlicensed woman, were hunting along the street below to trace the house into which A-Kan had managed to get an entrance. They began to call “A-Kan! A-Kan!” Someone, probably quite innocently said, “I think the man you are looking for went into the house opposite. I saw some one enter there.” This was all the clue they had, yet on that evidence alone, Inspector Lee began to pound on the street door of the house, No. 42. A woman on the first floor looked out, and the Inspector ordered her to open the street door. If she recognized him as an officer she would not have dared refuse. The inspector and the interpreter went up the stairs, but encountered folding doors half way up, locked across the stairs. The Inspector managed to get over them and unlock them from the inside, and on they went, and paused to listen beneath the trap door. They did not hear A-Kan’s voice, and did not know whether he was there. They had only the conjecture of the woman across the street to proceed upon, nevertheless they had forced their way into this private abode occupied by women, knowing nothing whatever about the place, whether it was respectable or not. At this moment Mrs. Lau heard voices of men on her stairs, and said in alarm to A-Kan, “The inspector is coming, looking for you, isn’t he?” A-Kan said “Yes.” Then Tai Yau threw herself at the feet of A-Kan and begged for mercy, saying: “I was arrested before and fined a hundred dollars. I sold my son to pay the fine, and you must not say anything now.” He sanctimoniously shook his head, as though weighing his responsibility, saying: “I don’t know, I don’t know.” She did not recognize him, but he was the very man who had before informed against her and secured her conviction, when she was humbled “against her will.” He now opened the trap door to let the inspector and his interpreter in. Tai Yau exclaimed to Mrs. Lau, “He is coming to arrest women for keeping an unlicensed brothel, let us flee!” Tai-Yau ran up a ladder through a scuttle out upon the flat roof of the house, her old servant following and Mrs. Lau behind. The inspector and interpreter followed, while the informer escaped from the house. Mrs. Lau managed to reach the hatch of the next house, No. 44, and ran down that into the street, hotly chased by the inspector. He said in his testimony: “I pursued the woman down the trap, and followed her right into the street. I pursued and she ran up the steps of Peel street and up to Staunton street, and a Lokong [Chinese constable] caught her about ten yards from Aberdeen street.” Then the occupants of the ground floor of 44 Peel street called to Inspector Lee and told him that some people had fallen from the roof into their cook-house, and Inspector Lee said in his testimony: “I went into the cook-house and saw the deceased [the old servant of Tai Yau] lying on the granite on her face, with her head close to an earthenware chatty [water-bottle] which I pointed out, and the bundle of clothing with a Chinese rule lying on the top of her head, or on the back of the neck. Close beside her was another woman lying on the other side of the chatty with her feet against the wall and her head out toward the cook-house door. I had a Chinese candle. I took up the bundle of clothes off deceased’s head, and turned her on her back, and there were no signs of life apparent. The other woman was bleeding from the face, and her face and neck were covered with blood. She was moving as if in great pain. I sent for the ambulance at once, and by this time the whole street was aroused.” The two women, Tai Yau and the old servant, had fallen through a smoke-hole in the roof.

Tai Yau had a fractured jaw and left thigh, besides internal injuries. She lived but ten days. The verdict rendered in each of these cases was nearly the same. That of Tai Yau’s calamity reads in part:

“Mok Tai-Yau, on the morning of the 17th of October, in the year aforesaid, being on the roof of a house, known as 44, Peel Street, Victoria, and having fled there in consequence of the entry of an Inspector of Brothels into the house known as 42, Peel Street, where she lived, accidentally and by misfortune fell down an open area, known as a smoke-hole, unto the granite pavement beneath, and by means thereof did receive mortal bruises, fractures and