HC Deb 25 June 1906 vol 159 cc636-8
MR. MACKARNESS (Berkshire, Newbury)

I beg to ask the Under-secretary of State for the Colonies whether instructions were given by the Secretary of State to the Governor of the Transvaal to issue to the Chinese in the Rand the Repatriation Proclamation which was read to the House of Commons; and, if so, whether those instructions were complied with.


The Secretary of State has received the following telegram from Lord Selborne:—"23rd June A. Matter most urgent. Your telegram of 22nd June No. 1. The terms of His Majesty's Government's offer were first formulated in English. They were then translated into Chinese. Owing to difference between the genius of the two languages, the Chinese text was then translated back into English in order that the ipsissima verba of what the coolies would have placed before them should be submitted to you. This text was cabled in my telegram A 28th April. Words at the end usually rendered in English 'tremblingly obey' constitute stereotyped formula attached to every single official proclamation issued in China. It is as much part of the literature of Chinese proclamation as the Royal Arms are part of an official proclamation in England, and was therefore no more telegraphed to His Majesty's Government than were the dates in two styles or the official title of the issuer. This is Superintendent of Foreign Labour's explanation to me of the words 'tremblingly obey' as I personally did not know that they were in the proclamation. So much were they a matter of course to a diplomatist of twenty years experience in China that he never even thought of mentioning them to me. I have the most profound confidence in the loyalty of Superintendent of Foreign Labour."


Do the words "tremblingly obey" still form part of the proclamation?


We are considering the desirability of making alterations and amendments in the proclamation.

SIR H. COTTON (Nottingham, E.)

asked whether the words "tremblingly obey" were only used in China in prohibitive proclamations, and not in proclamations purporting to make concessions.


The hon. Member speaks with immense and exceptional authority on these questions, and I think it is quite possible that what he says is I correct. Speaking for myself, I should say that no commands should be addressed to law-abiding citizens which they cannot obey without trepidation.

MR. GOOCH (Bath)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has ascertained whether the translation which has recently appeared of the Repatriation Proclamation is a correct translation of the proclamation as it was posted in the compounds; and, if so, why a different version was read to the House of Commons.


The Foreign Office translator has now reported that the version of the proclamation given in Lord Selborne's telegram of April 28th is a more accurate translation than that which appeared in the Manchester Guardian.

MR. CLEMENT EDWARDS (Denbigh District)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the original Chinese Repatriation Proclamation was drawn by the Transvaal Chamber of Mines, or one of its officials or members; whether it was submitted to the Secretary of State, before being issued, and approved by him; and whether, when issued, it was posted in the compounds accompanied by the English version read by the Under-secretary of State to the House of Commons, and by whom was the translation made.


With regard to the first part of the hon. Member's Question, the Secretary of State is informed that the proclamation was drafted by the Superintendent of Foreign Labour. The Answer to the second part of the Question is in the affirmative, and to the third, that he has no reason to suppose that the Chinese version of the proclamation was accompanied by the English version, which would have been unintelligible to those to whom it was addressed. The Superintendent of Foreign Labour made the translation.

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

asked if an independent translation would be made.


I have already said we are considering the issue of an amended proclamation.


asked who was referred to as "we."


When the word "we" is used in answer to Questions it means His Majesty's Government.