HC Deb 16 June 1845 vol 81 cc600-1
Mr. J. A. Smith

asked a question of the hon. Gentleman respecting the issuing of a certain ordinance by Mr. Davis, the Governor of Hong Kong, against certain societies existing in that Colony, called Triad, and other secret societies, the members composing which were the native Chinese. By the ordinance it was decreed that any person convicted of being a member of these societies should be deemed guilty of felony, and be liable to be imprisoned for two years, and to be branded on the cheek in the manner of military deserters. In one of the adjoining provinces in China, there was an edict decreeing that if any of the vagabond members of those societies created a disturbance and were slain by the people, no inquiry would be made as to their deaths, should that take place. He wished to know whether the ordinances of Governor Davis had received the sanction of the Government.

Mr. G. W. Hope

said, that the ordinance to which the hon. Gentleman had referred had been passed by the Governor in Council in Hong Kong, for the purpose of putting down the Triad societies existing there. It appeared that these societies were a combination of Chinese, acting under the direct dictation of one individual, whom they were bound by oaths implicitly to obey; and they were known and dreaded as a body of assassins, robbers, and murderers. They were, as set forth in the edict, the very terror of the people of China; so much so, that they even levied a species of black mail from members of the Government itself. An edict had, therefore, been issued by the Emperor, for the suppression of these Triad and other secret societies. With regard to the form of the ordinance put forth by the Governor of Hong Kong, it was in some respects objectionable; at the same time, it was deemed necessary to suppress these societies; therefore further instructions would be sent to the Governor, with the view to the issuing of another ordinance. The hon. Gentleman was not strictly correct in saying that it was the practice to mark these persons on the cheek as were deserters in the army. They were marked, but not so as to be visible. He might state that in consequence of there being no power in Hong Kong to punish the Chinese, who were subjects of the Emperor, this Triad society were regarded as superior to all law, and it was felt that there was no security against the conduct of persons acting under their authority.