Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

French police, 1891

Although the following is not a report of litigation, we included it because it shows some elements of the state of policing in Shanghai.

 

Execrable!

North China Herald, 10 July, 1891
THE FRENCH POLICE,
The following correspondence has been handed to us for publication -
Shanghai, 26th June, 1891
  SIR, - I am instructed to address you on behalf of Han Jen Shun (hereinafter called the complainant) who is the manager of and a partner in the Tuk Ta Hong, a Chinese firm of merchants trading in kerosene oil and residing in the Ling Ping lane in the French Settlement.
  The Tuk Ta Hong is one of the large firms engaged in this trade, and purchases direct from the foreign importers of oil.
    On Saturday last, the 20th inst., at about 8 a.m. a man named Wong Chun Tsze, who had formerly been in the employ of Tuk Ta Hong, but had previously been discharged, was arrested on the Foong Yu Jetty in the English Settlement by a French police force. His name is unknown to the complainant, but he can be identified by him at any time. He was taken by force over the Yang King Pang Bridge, and conveyed to the French police station. This appears to have been done under the belief that he was the owner of a basket of oil which had been taken from a boat at the Foong Yu Jetty to the Tuk Ta Hing at about 7.30 a.m. that morning, but with which he had nothing whatever to do.
  The complainant was informed at once by his boatman of what had occurred. As the oil belonged to his hong he went at once to the Station, but seeing the police strike and kick the man Wong Chun Tsze he was afraid of violence and went to his friend, the compradore of the China and Japan Trading Co., Ltd., who is named Chao Fu So, and they went together to the Police Station.  On the way they met a number of Chinese detectives of the French Police force who had Wong Chun Tsze in custody and with handcuffs on and who were taking him towards the Bund. The complainant told the detectives at once that the oil belonged to him. They replied that they were going to the English side to seize the boat.  They replied, our No. 2 headman has given us the order, and once we have the order from him we will go and arrest it on the English side or anywhere. One of the detectives then said, this man (meaning the present complainant) confesses that the oil belongs to him so we had better arrest him, and never mind the boat. One of the policemen told Wong to call the boatman and he did so, and the boatman came and they arrested him. Five policemen seized the complainant by the queue very violently. He remonstrated and the Foong-yu compradore did also and said that the complainant was a merchant with a hong and would not run away and they had no business to treat him like a robber. They went to the station, a policeman holding the complainant's queue by the end all the time.
  At the station the interpreter asked him whether the oil belonged to him, and he said, yes. The interpreter then received an order from the Inspector to tell the men to lock you the complainant.  The Inspector was the No. 3 policeman, a Frenchman. Complainant sad he had plenty of business to do and could give any security required. He offered to get Messrs. E. D. Sassoon's head partner, and Mr. Haskell, to go bail for him, but this was refused.  He then offered to get Chinese merchants, but the inspector told him not to talk any more, and ordered him to be locked up at once. Complainant. Wong, and the boatman were then locked up in a very small room at the station. There were five other prisoners in the room, at the same time - three shopkeepers, and two thieves. It was then between 8.30 and 9 a.m. They were kept there an hour or more, and at about 10 o'clock were taken out to be conveyed to the French Mixed Court.  When starting from the station, all the men were handcuffed, two men being handcuffed together, and their queues were all fastened together. Complainant's queue was fastened to that of one of the thieves, and he was handcuffed with Wong. They were taken through the public streets to the Mixed Court in this manner. Many of the friends and acquaintances of the complainant and all the people in the streets saw him treated as described. The complainant was compelled to kneel down with the others in the Court, was not allowed to give any explanation, the Magistrate only listening to the police officer sitting near him, and he was fined $20, and dismissed.
  The complainant was perfectly well aware that there is a municipal regulation forbidding the carrying of oil in baskets. The oil was brought to the complainant's hong in a basket through no fault of his, but he was always quite willing to be responsible for the breach of the regulations, and to pay the small fine that is usually imposed in such cases, and he went expressly for this purpose, and to obtain the release of the man wrongfully charged, and arrested, and who was perfectly innocent of any offence.
  My client now complains of the gross outrage which has been committed upon him, by the forcible arrest, the violent seizure of his queue by the detectives, the detention at the police station, and the refusal of bail, the placing of handcuffs upon him, the fastening of him both by handcuffs and queue to other prisoners, and the conveyance of him in this disgraceful condition through the public streets of the French Settlement, the compelling him to kneel in the Court in a case of this sort, and the utterly unjust and improper treatment of the case in the Court.
 AS the men who have committed this outrage are the servants of the French Municipal Council I have now the honour to request you, as Chairman of the Council, to inform me whether you are willing to allow this matter to be fully and openly enquired into, and to give the complainant the opportunity to attend and prove the truth of the statements made in this letter, and to give him just reparation.
 I am, Sir, &c., (Signed) W.V. DRUMMOND
H. CHAPSAL, Esq.,
Chairman, French Municipal Council.
.  .  .  
(Copy)
Shanghai, 26th June, 1891.
  SIR, - I have addressed a letter to you, which is enclosed in this cover, on behalf of Han Jen Shun. In that letter is contained a statement of the circumstances in regard to which I am now addressing upon on behalf of Wong Chun Tsze.  It is unnecessary for me to repeat these at length.  There is one additional feature in Wong's cause, viz: the fact that he was illegally arrested on the English Settlement by an officer of the French police force.
  On behalf of Wong Chun Tsze I now beg to repeat the last paragraph of the letter addressed to you on behalf of Han Jen Shun, and to make requests similar to those contained therein.
[as above] W.V. DRUMMOND.
.  .  .  
Shanghai, 30th June, 1891
  SIR, - I am instructed to forward to you the enclosed copies of two letters addressed by me to Mr. Chapsal, the Chairman of the French Municipal Council. After sending those letters I received a letter from Mr. Malherbe stating that the French police are under the orders of the French Consul, and requesting me to correspond with them on the matter. I am now consequently corresponding with Mr. Wagner on the subject.
  As however one of the complainants was forcibly seized, and arrested on the Foong Yu jetty within the limits of the Settlements north of the Yang King Pang without any consent or authority from any Municipal or Consular official, and as this has caused grave apprehensions in the minds of very many respectable Chinese as to the danger of a repetition of such illegal arrests, I am instructed to enquire whether you are willing to render any assistance to the complainants in their efforts to obtain redress, and whether you will take such steps as may be necessary to prevent the repetition of illegal arrests within the Settlements which are under the governance of your Council?
  The matter being one of great public importance, and the feelings of a very influential body of Chinese merchants being very much agitated on this subject, I propose to send a copy of this correspondence for publication in the local newspaper.
  I shall be greatly obliged if you will send me a reply at your earliest convenience
[As above.] W. V. DRUMMOND.
J. G. PURDON, Esq.,
Chairman, Municipal Council.
.  .  .  
(Copy)
Council Room, Shanghai, 1st July, 1891
  SIR, - I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 30th ult., enclosing copies of letters addressed by you to Mr. Chapsal, the Chairman of the French Municipal Council, relating to the seizure of certain Chinese on the 20th ult., by the French Police, one of the Chinese being arrested within the limits of the Settlement north of the Yang-king-pang.
  In repy I beg to say that as the Council regard such a proceeding as the arrest, without a proper warrant, of anyone in this Settlement by other than our own policemen, as a grave impropriety, I am addressing the French Consul-General upon the subject.
I remain, &c., JOHN G. PURDON, Chairman.
W.V. DRUMMOND, Esq.
.  .  .  
(Copy)
Consulat-General de France a Shanghai,
Shanghai, 29th June, 1891.
  SIR, - I am in possession of your note of today's date and of the two letters you have addressed to Mr. Chapsal. It is therefore unnecessary that you should recapitulate the circumstances in a letter to myself.
  As soon as informed of the complaint made against some agents of the French Police I have instituted an enquiry in order to ascertain the real facts of the case. As far as I can judge until now they seem, as you present them, to be somewhat exaggerated, and I would not be surprised if the agents concerned were not quite so much to blame as your clients would make them to be.
  However if it should result that the Police agents have overstepped their duty or acted in an unwarrantable manner I shall certainly punish or reprimand them according to the gravity of the offence.
I have the honour, &c. (Signed) R.  WAGNER.
W. V. DRUNMOND.
.  .  .  
(Copy)
Shanghai, 30th June, 18991
  SIR, - I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday's date. In the letter you do not make any reply to the questions contained in my former letter with reference to the holding of a full and open enquiry into the matter in question, etc., etc. You state that you have "instituted an enquiry in order to ascertain the real facts of the case," but no notice of the times when, or the place where the enquiry is being held has been given to me, or to my clients. I have therefore to say at once that any so-called enquiry into the facts of the case at which the complainants are not present with every facility to prove the truth of the facts stated in my letter, and to cross-examine witnesses called to contradict them, will be absolutely and entirely worthless. Any enquiry held in their absence, and without the facilities I have named, will be simply a secret enquiry, will not command the confidence or respect of any reasonable being, and will be wholly contrary to the principles of justice acknowledged by every civilised country.
  In addition to the foregoing all-sufficient reasons for complying with my demands there are some others of great importance having special application to this case. As you are no doubt aware the feeling of the Chinese residents on the French Settlement has been in a dangerous state of irritation ever since you sent away the French policeman who was charged with killing a native. Besides this the present disturbed political condition of this part of China makes it a matter of common prudence, as well as of common justice, that the treatment of the native population within the areas of the foreign settlements, and the public and just trial of complaints should be such as to satisfy all reasonable persons.
  In the present case a man who holds a position equivalent to that of the head of a large foreign firm has been seized  by common native detectives, and by orders of French police officers, locked up in a cell with common thieves, and the most respectable foreign and native bail refused, and then he has been actually conveyed through the public streets handcuffed, and tied by the queue, and in other ways disgracefully treated, the only charge against him being the breach of a minor local regulation, with which he personally has nothing to do, though he was quite willing to pay the small fine, which is usual in such cases, $5 or $10 at the Mixed Court in the English Settlement.
  Breaches of Municipal Regulations in small matters may often be made by servants of foreign hongs, but the foreign heads of such hongs are never subjected to such outrageous indignities, and nothing whatever can justify such treatment of respectable Chinese merchants.
  The matter is one of the utmost importance, on public grounds, as well as regards the complainants themselves, and I shall therefore take steps to have full publicity given to it throughout.
I am, Sir, &c.  W. V. DRUMMOND.
M. R. Wagner, Consul-General of France, Shanghai.
.  .  .  
(Copy)
Consulat-General de France a Shanghai,
Shanghai, 1st July, 1891.
SIR, - I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday's date.
  It seems to me that you are rather hastily jumping to conclusions. There is no intention nor wish to hold a secret enquiry, as you are pleased to state, or to prevent your clients being present with every facility to state and prove the facts of the case. In fact it may be regretted that they should, so far, have been kept in  the background, as, if they had at first complained to me they would have been satisfied on that score.
  I should have liked to hear the complaint from the complainants themselves, as well as the explanations of the other parties, before naming a day and place to bring them together with their witnesses and advisers, if any. This course might have led perhaps to speedy and satisfactory results and served better the public interests, of which you have not the privilege to be alone solicitous.
  You will allow me to observe that among much irrelevant matter contained in your communications (which would have lost nothing by being couched in a shape less objectionable, and uselessly so) there is no definite statement of what you claim on behalf of your clients, beyond an opportunity to prove certain circumstances alleged by them.
  I was disposed to treat the case as one of discipline of the Police Force, as, according to precedents, it would, I believe, have been treated on the Foreign Settlement. I cannot make out if this course meets your views or of you desire something else which is not stated.
  I have sent word to your clients to come and see me and will fix an early day for bringing together all the parties concerned. Would Monday next suit your convenience? Friday is mail day and Saturday being Independence Day I shall not be at liberty.
I am, Sir, etc. R. WAGNER.
W. V. DRUMMOND, Esq.
.  .  .  
Shanghai, 1st July, 1891
SIR, - I have just received your letter of this date, to which I hasten to reply. I am very glad to learn that you propose to treat the case in an open manner by bringing together all the parties concerned. With reference to the nature of the enquiry that you propose to make I do not think I could be considered as "jumping to a conclusion"  when your letter to me of the 29th June had already stated that you had instituted an enquiry, and added, "as far as I can judge until now they seem as you present them to be somewhat exaggerated, and I would not be surprised if the agents concerned were not quite so much to blame as your clients would make them to be." It is clear from the foregoing that the enquiry was already going on and that you had already commenced to form an opinion upon the matter, while the complainants had not even been seen by you or given any notice of the examination of the parties concerned, or any other witnesses. There was no statement or suggestion in your letter that you proposed to do any other than to continue the enquiry as you were then doing, or that you had any intention of giving the complainants any opportunity of proving their case.
  I shall be quite willing to attend at your office with my clients on Monday next as you propose, at such hour as you may name With reference to the method of dealing with the case, I have purposely left that to your own judgment, merely reserving to myself liberty, on behalf of my clients, of taking such action as I might think necessary afterwards. In the event of the complainants proving the truth of their statements they would clearly be entitled to two things, i.e., punishment of the wrong-doers, and compensation for their own ill-treatment.  I have not formulated the views of the complainants upon these points, but shall be prepared to do so whenever requested by you.
I am, &c., W. V. DRUMMOND.
M. R. Wagner, Consul-General of France, Shanghai.
.  .  .  
(Copy)
SIR, - As you refused to allow reporters to be present at the enquiry this morning, and from the nature of the proceedings, I saw that it would be a useless waste of breath to address you on the matter when you announced that there was nothing further to be done, and that you would examine some other members of the police force yourself and then inform me of your decision, and I determined therefore to address you in writing instead.
  I now write to say that by excluding reporters you have refused the open and public enquiry which I demanded, and which was essentially necessary in the case. The so-called enquiry held in your private room this morning to be supplemented by you by further private enquiry by yourself alone of members of the French police force, constitutes in my opinion a simple travesty of justice. And I consider it utterly worthless as representing in any way a judicial procedure.
  I now therefore beg to protest against your treatment of this case.
  I further say that what occurred this morning proved the truth of the statements made in my first letter of complaint, and that the most serious charges of all, viz:- the handcuffing of the complainants, were not even denied. You treated the case as a trifling matter of police discipline, and remarked that "mountains had been made out of molehills." In reply I beg to say that this is adding gross insult to gross injury.  On behalf of the complainants I am instructed to demand that the French police officers be dismissed; that an order be issued, in Chinese and French, strictly prohibiting the repetition of the offences committed by the police; and that the persons responsible for the outrage be ordered to pay a fine of $1,000, half of this to be given to the Shantung Road hospital, and half to any charity that you may choose to name. If these punishments are inflicted the requirements of justice may be met, but not otherwise.
  I will only say in conclusion that if lives and property are destroyed on the French Settlement, and if the very best class of Chinese residents are found to be in active sympathy with the destroyers it will in my opinion be only the natural result of the outrages committed upon the residents by the French police who are under your control and direction, and the absence of any just reparation.
I am, Sir, &.  W. V. DRUMMOND.
M. R. Wagner, Consul-General of France Shanghai.
.  .  .  
(Translation)
Shanghai, 6th July, 1891
SIR, - I have the honour to inform you that in virtue of the disciplinary powers conferred on me by Article XIII of the Reglement d'administration  municipale de la concession francaise, I have inflicted on the sous-chef Jarno a detention of half-a-month's pay for having exceeded his powers in arresting on the morning of the 20th June last on the territory of the Foreign Settlement north of the Yangkingpang, Mr. Wong Chun Tsze, and having brought him to the Central Station.
  It has seemed to me on the other hands that the charge brought by Mr. Wong against the said Mr. Jarno, whom he accused of having given him three blows with his stick, is not proved; one of Wong's witnesses declaring that he saw Jarno strike him only once with his hand.  Here is a contradiction serious enough to be taken into account, more so when Mr. Jarno affirms that he did not strike, but only made a threatening gesture, an affirmation corroborated by the declaration of other witnesses.
  Finally, I have taken into consideration the fact that the carrying of kerosene on the concession in vessels insufficiently closed constituted a serious danger, and demanded the energetic intervention of the police.
  As to Sergeant Chaigneau, on service at the Central Station when Mr. Han Jen-shin was brought there by the detective No. 1, I have punished him with the detention of seven days' pay for having committed an error of judgment in putting handcuffs on Mr. Han Jen-shun and having him taken to the Mixed Court tied by the queue like a malefactor.
  This measure was unnecessary because this merchant was domiciled on the concession, and the Mixed Court magistrate could always make him appear, if he did not surrender voluntarily.
  The other members of the force having acted under the orders of their superiors, there is no ground for taking measures against them.
Receive, Sir, &c. R. Wagner.
Mr. W. V. DRUMMOND, Barrister-at-Law.

......................................................................

North China Herald, 10 July, 1891
THE FRENCH POLICE CASE. - I.
6th July.
AN enquiry of the very gravest importance in the present unsettled condition of affairs in this part of China is to take place this morning at the French Consulate-General, and we give in another column some copies of correspondence relating to the matter. It is the conduct of the French Police here that is in question. It is generally known that there has been much dissatisfaction among the Chinese at the abortive result of the enquiry into the alleged death some little while since of a native at the hands of a French policeman, who was smuggled away from China soon afterwards.
  Since that event we have been asked to publish correspondence from thoroughly responsible residents protesting against the brutality with which the natives are often treated by the Police on the French Concession, but we have suppressed the correspondence as we have thought it most inadvisable to publish anything that could increase the anti-French feeling that exists among many of the Chinese.
  The present matter, however, is far too grave to be passed over. We justly base much of our feeling of security here in the event of an outbreak  on the knowledge that all the respectable Chinese, and those who have anything to lose, would support us in putting down disturbances; but for this it is necessary that we should conciliate them by treating them always with fairness and justice; and this is so fully the case, that on the so-called English and American Concessions, the Chinese have as much confidence as foreigners themselves in the Municipal Council and its police.
  Things are not the same, however, on the French side. The Chinese there have full confidence, indeed, in the Municipal Council, which consists half of French citizens and half of British subjects; but they have no confidence in the French Police, which is unfortunately not under the orders of the Council, but of the French Consul-General. In Mr. R. Wagner, the present French Consul-General, the French Republic has a representative of whom nothing but good can be said; but it is impossible that a functionary whose term of office in one place is comparatively brief, and who is fully occupied with his diplomatic and consular duties, and who is at the same time the Doyen of the Consular body, can have the time to direct the Police force of the Concession; or can appreciate the care and delicacy with which the Chinese should be treated, as can a body of merchants who have been living beside the Chinese for years, and are in daily intimate communication with them.
  The facts of the case are almost incredible. [Summary follows.]
  For some days the kerosene oil trade was stropped altogether in consequence of that outrage, but today the French Consul-General is to hear the charge against the Police, and it is to be hoped that he will appreciate the gravity of it, and will punish his subordinates as they deserve, if the facts stated in the petition of Mr. Han are proved. Instances like this are fresh proofs of the disadvantage of the French concession being administered independently of the rest of Shanghai. It is almost an absurdity. Only a small part of the land in the concession is owned by French citizens, and the trade done there by foreigners I nearly all done by English and German, who, though they are allowed seats on the Municipal Council, have no voice in the control of the police, one of the most important of the municipal departments.
  Of late a more distinctly Gallicising tendency has been shown south of the Yangkingpang, for the Secretary of the French Consul has taken lately to addressing the English council in French, and the Senior Consul followed suit, although English has been recognised for years as the official language of China. Would Mr. Wagner consider it convenient, if, as might easily happen a Russian Consul-General should become Senior Consul, that he should communicate with the Municipal Council in Russian?
  We cannot doubt that proper amends will be made to the Council on this side for the "grave impropriety" committed by the French police in invading this Settlement, and we trust that the enquiry to be held this morning will be public and will be exhaustive, and that full justice will be done. We have all to suffer too if any trouble arises on the French side, and other nationalities are actually more interested than the French are in its prosperity; and this fully justifies us in dwelling at the length we have done on the matter.
.  .  .  
THE FRENCH POLICE. - II
7th July.
WE give in another column the remainder of the correspondence in reference to the French Police case, the earlier letters now given having been held back yesterday in the hope that the enquiry held yesterday morning was to be public.
  The French authorities, however, refused to allow reporters to be present. Mr. Drummond's letters may be thought unduly forcible, but he was naturally anxious to impress upon the French Consul-General the gravity of the affair, which Mr. Wagner seems still unable to appreciate, as he considers that to handcuff a leading native merchant and take him to the Mixed Court tied by his queue to a rabble of thieves, etc., is sufficiently punished by a suspension of one weeks' pay. It is satisfactory so far to see that the Consul-General admits the truth of Mr. Han's statements, while regarding the policeman's action as a mere "error of judgment."  We trust that Mr. Han and his friends will be satisfied with Mr. Wagner's decision.
It will no doubt be understood that the two last letters, from Mr. Wagner and Mr. Drummond respectively, crossed each other.

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