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Colonial Cases

Ling Chin 1878

[false arrest]

Ling Chin

Mixed Court, Shanghai
7 January 1878
Source: The North China Herald, 10 January 1878



Shanghai, 7th Jan.

Before the Chinese Magistrate CHEN and C. T. GARDNER, Esq., British Assessor.


Outrage on a Native Resident in the settlement.

   Ling-chin [Chinese characters], who for six or seven years past has been proprietor of a large and well-conducted tea-house establishment in the Canton road, appeared to answer a charge, brought against him by the nephew of a Wei-pu, or police mandarin, of having defrauded the Chinese customs.  The charge, as nearly as can be translated from the Chinese version, was that the accused "was not a quiet and respectable man a long time ago."

   It appeared from the statements made in Court, by Mr. Stripling and Mr. Fowler, that about ten years ago the accused was a lekin runner, but having given up that calling, went into partnership some time afterwards with the Wei-pu's nephew.  They subsequently parted, and accused, gradually extending his business transactions, ultimately became proprietor of the tea-shop in the Canton road.  Ever since the dissolution of partnership, the Wei-pu's nephew had been in the habit of borrowing, but never repaying, money from the accused, the demand gradually increasing on the approach of the Chinese New-Year. 

   Last year the nephew sent two men, Pu and Wang, to accused's shop, at different times, and demanded $30 and $15, which sums accused paid - the $30 to Pu and $15 to Wang.  This year, the nephew sent another messenger, with a demand for $50. The accused declines to submit to the squeeze any longer, and telling the messenger that he was well protected by law in the English Settlement, refused to pay the money.  The result was that, on Sunday night, accused's shop was visited by four runners from the City, who demanded payment of the $50.  Accused still refused to comply, repeating that he was living protected in the Settlement, and adding that the runners had nothing to do with him.  The reply was that they would see about that, and producing what they said was a legal warrant, insisted on arresting accused and taking him there and then to the Taotai's yamen in the city. 

   They then seized accused, dragged him out of his shop, along the Canton road, and into the Shantung road.  One of the runners went to the Central Police Station, and producing another card, asked for the assistance of a Municipal Policeman, and endeavoured to make it appear that accused was a very bad offender. Mr. Fowler, however, was neither satisfied with the runner's statement, nor the appearance of the card he produced as his authority, and directed a constable to go with the runner and bring the accused to the Station. A statement was there made by the runners to the effect that, about ten years ago, accused had been charged with squeezing the Customs, by receiving bribes and letting people off payment of duties.  After hearing the statement, Mr. Fowler liberated the accused on his own bond to appear at the Mixed Court on Wednesday last, but that day being a holiday the case was not then investigated, and Friday was appointed for the hearing.

   The case was then called on, and the Wei-pu again wanted to take the accused to the Taotai's yamen, saying that it was not "foreign pidgin" at all, but belonged to the Chinese's but the police refused to let him go; and ultimately to-day was fixed for the full investigation.  However, neither the Wei-pu, his nephew, the man Pu, nor the runners appeared; and Wang has died since last year.

   The ASSESSOR said it appeared that the card, or warrant, upon which the runner had acted, was one of a few that were issued in 1864, the object being to enable the immediate arrest of persons suspected of piracy or theft, or for use in any sudden emergency, in order to avoid the loss of time involved in going and applying for the ordinary warrant, during which interval the suspected persons might have escaped.  It was during the rime of the Taiping rebellion, and the Settlement was much infested with thieves and pirates of all kinds.

   Mr. FOWLER said the card produced at the central Police Station was not one of those alluded to by the Assessor; it looked like an ordinary lekin card.

   Mr. STRIPLING added that lekin card's were not issued as warrants for the apprehension of persons, but only as a means of identification of the holder, showing he was authorized to act as a lekin runner.

   The ASSESSOR said the case looked like an attempt at squeezing a little money for the Chinese New Year.

   The MAGISTRATE said that the accused was arrested on a warrant issued while Sir Harry Parkes was Consul and Ting Futai Taotai at Shanghai.  The Taotai has verbally informed me that he knows defendant and that he is a bad character.

   Mr. FOWLER repeated that the runners did not produce any such warrant at the police Station, although it was possible that one of them might have had it in his possession.  But this could not be considered a case of emergency at all - the accused had long resided in the Settlement, was in a large way of business, and could be found at any time; besides which, the offences alleged against him were said to have taken place about ten years ago.

   The ASSESSOR said that when the Settlement was cleared of the people for whose apprehension the card-warrants were issued, they fell into disuse, and Mr. Penfold had told him that he had not seen one for several years.

   After a consultation with the Magistrate,

   The ASSESSOR said it was required that the accused should enter into a bond to appear at the Mixed Court within 14 fays, if the Chinese authorities should produce any evidence against him.  If there were any witnesses forthcoming, fourteen days would be ample time for then to come to Court.  The Police, in the meantime, were to take care that the accused was not interfered with nor dragged out of the Settlement.

-  -  -


   We have seen one of the card-warrants issued in 1864, when the Chinese established a Wei-pu-foh in the foreign Settlement.  The cards were issued by the mutual consent of the Consuls and Chinese Authorities, and Mr. Penfold informs us that four of them only were issued to constables of the Wei-pu-foh, it being arranged that on one of the cards being produced at a Police Station the Police would detain any on then brought there; or, in company with the constable presenting the card, arrest an accused Chinaman.  The prisoner was to be detained at the Police Station, and taken before the Mixed Court at the next sitting, to be dealt with there as the Chinese magistrate and foreign Assessor thought proper.  The object was that, in those troublesome times, the Settlement should not become the harbour of thieves and pirates, by enabling them to be apprehended before they had tome to leave the Settlement, as, before a formal warrant could have been obtained for their apprehension, they might have escaped.  At that time (1864) the card-warrants were very useful, but Mr. Penfold has not seen one for years, although the office is still in existence.

The wording on the card-warrant is as follows.  On the face,



Warrant card.

Approved by Municipal Council, .... 186 .

Superintendent of Police.

This bore the Municipal Council Stamp.

   On the reverse, the card bears the following inscription, in English and Chinese:


No person is allowed to use this card except the constable to whom it belongs; and any other person using it, or otherwise falsely assuming the office of constable, will be proceeded against according to law.

The constable is required when performing duty without police uniform to produce thus card when required, in proof of his authority to act as constable.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School