HC Deb 14 February 1922 vol 150 cc800-1

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Governor and the Chief Justice of Hong Kong repeatedly declared during 1880 and 1882 that the system of so-called adoption in Hong Kong was, in fact, slavery; and whether, as a result of these representations, Lord Kimberley gave instructions for the holding of an inquiry and for the submission to him of a Report upon the whole question; whether these instructions were carried out; and, if not, will he say why not?


It appears from the records that the opinion held by Sir John Smale, who 40 years ago was the Chief Justice in Hong Kong during the period mentioned by the Noble Lord, was that this social custom of "mui tsai" constituted a form of slavery; the Governor, however, considered that such a term could hardly be applied in fairness to "mui tsai" in Hong Kong, and further stated that after consulting the Attorney-General, Mr. O'Malley, he was clearly of opinion that there was nothing illegal in the ordinary mode of adoption of Chinese children in the Colony. Lord Kimberley requested the Governor to institute an inquiry into the facts of the system, but though no formal Report from the Governor can be traced, the latter, with the approval of the Secretary of State, and with the assistance of many Chinese residents, took action where necessary to ameliorate the conditions under which the system operated and to prevent its abuse in practice.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these slaves are even now re-sold for immoral purposes?

Lieut-Colonel J. WARD

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that, really, after all the time that has been given to this subject, it is overdue that we should abolish the right to buy and sell human beings in one of our Crown Colonies—never mind what for? The mere fact that they can be bought and sold for any purpose whatever is a disgrace to the British Empire.


I think it is a subject which might very well be debated on the Colonial Office Estimates.


Was it not fully debated on the last Colonial Office Vote, and was it not generally condemned?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in a document issued from his Department, the statement is made that almost every household in Hong Kong that can afford to do so keeps a mui tsai; and whether this comprehensive statement includes the households of British officials?


The statement in the document quoted is intended to relate only to the practice of an essentially Chinese custom in Chinese households in Hong Kong.

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