HC Deb 07 February 1934 vol 285 cc1117-8

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, seeing that the mui-tsai system under which children exchange hands for financial considerations, is now known to be in operation in several territories under the protection and control of Great Britain, he can say in how many dependencies this system is known to be in being; and what is the total number of mui-tsai in the territories in question?


The mui-tsai system, as described in the hon. Member's question, is a Chinese custom of long standing which formerly existed in Hong Kong and was introduced by Chinese immigrants into certain other British Colonies and Protected States, namely the Straits Settlements, Malay States, Sarawak and North Borneo. It has now been abolished by legislation in all those territories. The introduction or acquisition of hew mui-tsai has been prohibited, and those who were formerly mui-tsai have been registered and are subject to inspection and supervision. Their status is now that of free, paid, domestic servants. I have no complete information at present of the number of former mui-tsai now registered, since in certain of the territories the registers were not closed until the end of 1933.


Does the information of the hon. Member show whether the mui-tsai are being decreased or increased, in Hong Kong in particular?


Very much decreased.


Are we to take it that it is the policy of the Government to abolish this form of slavery within the British Empire?


I must point out that this is not a system of slavery. These are girls who are registered and perfectly free, and paid as domestic servants. If they wish to leave the position in which they are facilities are granted for them to do so.


Is the hon. Member satisfied that the evils of mui-tsai are not existing under another name, in the guise of adoption?


I am satisfied that the system of registration and inspection is sufficient and is being worked in order to make impossible any continuance of the system of slavery as it existed before.