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Colonial Cases

Newspaper commentary China 1920-1929

The Canton Times, 17 May 1920

American Criticism Of Mixed Court.


   Incompetence and "crookedness" in the conduct of the Mixed Court are alleged in an article, dated Shanghai, February 11, contributed by Mr. Joseph Timmons to the "San Francisco Examiner."  The article reads:-

   Extraterritoriality is getting to be a cause of much friction in China.  It will be a delicate problem for foreign legations from now on.

   The "awakening" middle class, led by the student movement and comprising merchants, gentry and the educated non-official classes generally, are chafing under this ignominy.

   They plan to deprive the Germans of extraterritoriality when relations are resumed.

   "Extraterritoriality" was set up by the foreign powers for the protection of their nationals against the irregularities of the old Chinese courts.  By "extraterritoriality" a foreigner carried into Chinese territory the bright to be tried by a court of his own country, generally a consular agent.  These may, by right, be located only in the "settlements."

   Two abuses have irritated the Chinese.  First, the Japanese have forced trial by their own consular agents in scores of places not opened to "settlement" or foreigners; practically nowhere in this country can a Chinese get a fair show in any civil or criminal matter in which a Japanese is involved.

   Secondly, in the "international settlement" at Shanghai civil and criminal cases involving foreigners are tried in the Mixed Court.  A Chinese magistrate sits with a judge of the nation of which the foreign litigant is a citizen.  Originally the Chinese magistrate had the power and the foreign magistrate sat as adviser.  But during the irregular period at the time of the revolution the Chinese magistrate was deprived of power by successive rules adopted, with good reason.  He continues to be a silent figurehead.

   The foreign "assessors" and magistrates sitting in the mixed courts are not on the average very high class jurists.  Most of them know little law.  They are apt to be arbitrary and there is much crookedness in the police department.  The Chinese claim they get scant justice.  Worse, there is no appeal from this court's decision.


The Times (London), 9 June, 1925

  Mr. Robert Anderson Mowat, who died at Hove on Sunday at the age of 82, had passed many years on the legal side of the Consular service in the Far East. The only son of Joseph Mowat, of Edinburgh, he was educated in Edinburgh and at University College, London. In 1844, having been successful in the competitive annual examination, he was appointed a student Interpreter on the China Consular Establishment, and became law secretary to the Consular Court at Shanghai in 1868.
  In 187 he was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple, and acted on many occasions as Deputy and Acting Judge at Shanghai. In 1878 he was appointed Assistant Judge and Registrar of H.M.'s Supreme Court for China and Japan at Shanghai, and served on several occasions as Acting Chief Justice. In April, 1891, he was promoted to be Judge of H.M.'s Court for Japan, but remained, at the request of the Secretary of State, at Shanghai as Acting Chief Justice till October, 1891, when he took up his post in Japan. He retired on a pension in 1897.
  Mr. Mowat married in 1871 Jennie, daughter of Thomas Clarkson, of Edinburgh, who died in 1922.


The Palestine Bulletin, 3 August 1925


A Rumanian named Gregorenko has been arrested in Shanghai on charges of complicity of the bribery of an official by Dr. Fortunatov, the physician attached to the Soviet Consulate. Gregorenko will be brought before the Mixed Court.


The Glasgow Herald, 1 January 1927



Shanghai, Friday. - In accordance with the agreement reached in September last it is officially announced that arrangements have been completed between the Chinese and foreign authorities for the rendition of the Shanghai Mixed Court, to become effective as from to-morrow. Similar action, having regard to the differences in the status between the two Courts, will be taken with respect to the French Mixed Court as from January 5.  It is understood that the seal of the Mixed Court will be handed over to-morrow morning when the Shanghai Provisional Chinese Court formally replaces the Mixed Court. - Reuter.


The Argus (Melbourne), 3 January 1927


Chinese Obtain Control.


   The handing over of the Shanghai International Mixed Court to what is virtually Chinese control occurred yesterday.  This is an epoch-making change in the relations between China and the Powers, and is regarded by foreigners with concern.  It amounts to a wedge thrust at the abolition of extra-territorial rights, and is yet another Chinese diplomatic victory over the Powers.  Foreigners realise that the ultimate rendition is inevitable.  They believe that China is entitled to govern her own nationals, but protest against the Powers granting this right, while the country is convulsed with internal disorder.

   It is feared that the Court will be used for political ends, and that foreign litigants will enter the Court under prejudice from the beginning.  Further, it is believed that Chinese extremists will not rest until the Mixed Court controls all foreigners, which will be but a step to the control of foreign concessions.  The outlook is gloomy.  Foreigners are rapidly losing faith with Ministers, who are fast stripping them of their few remaining means of protection, without which residence in China would be intolerable.


The Advocate (Tasmania), 14 February 1927


(Australian Press Association.)

Hankow, Friday. - Mr. Eugene Chen has notified the Consular Political Bureau that he has ordered that no more cases on behalf of foreign plaintiffs will be heard by the Mixed Court. Such must be tried before a Chinese Magistrate without a consular official as assessor.


Cairns Post (Qld., Australia), 22 March 1927


SHANGHAI, March 19.

The crime wave predicted to follow the handing over of the Mixed Court to Chinese control in January is sweeping the city.  The press and public are blaming the methods of the Chinese judges and agitating to regain control by re-instating the foreign judges. The climax was reached to-day, the Italian Consular Deputy accused the Chinese Judge of being politically influenced.  He warned the judge that a continuation of his judicial behaviour would increase the disorders and strikes in Shanghai and all over China.


The Daily News (Perth, Australia), 9 April 1927

... The Middlesex Batallion has been ordered from Hong Kong to Shanghai.


The Dubbo Liberal (NSW, Australia), 12 April 1927



A number of Sikhs, who attempted to seduce the Indian troops, were sentenced to 18 months hard labour in the British Consular Court.


The Brisbane Courier (Queensland, Australia), 11 May 1927





In this article Mr. Strange examines the Chinese claim for the abolition of the Foreign Consular Courts, and shows that though China has a perfect code it is not put into operation, and the administration of justice in the native courts is corrupt and unreliable.


The Times, 28 September 1927


SHANGHAI, Sept. 27.

His Honour Judge Peter Grain has been appointed to succeed Sir Skinner Turner as Judge of the British Supreme Consular Court for China at Shanghai.  Mr. G. W. King, the present Registrar, becomes Assistant Judge. - Reuter.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 December 1927



SHANGHAI, Dec. 21.

The immediate withdrawal of British troops from Shanghai is demanded by the Nationalist Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, in response to a public outcry raised over the reported shooting of a Chinese houseboy by Corporal Robertson, of the Scots Guards, the batman to the Provost-Marshal of the Defence Force, at the latter's apartment.  Robertson is awaiting trial at the British Consular Court on a murder charge.  Chinese officials have been offered seats on the Bench.


The Register (Adelaide, Australia), 31 August 1928


Abolition Probable.

Chinese Development.

SHANGHAI, August 30.

Members of the diplomatic body at Peking are seriously considering the abolition of consular jurisdiction in China, one of the principal aims of the Nationalist Government, as it would mean that foreigners would be amenable to Chinese law.  At the two conferences that have been held the British Minister (Sir Miles Lampson) expressed himself in favour of the abolition, but the other Powers are more reluctant, apparently.

It has been suggested that, pending the abolition of the consular Courts, special Courts should be established to hear Sino-foreign cases.  The Ministers are understood to have telegraphed to the respective Governments for instructions.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 March 1929


SHANGHAI, MARCH 10. - A crisis has arisen in the judicial affairs of the international settlement, and international complications are probable. Since the sitting at Shanghai of the Mixed Court, having jurisdiction over Chinese and the non-treaty foreigners resident in the settlement, endless differences of opinion between the Chinese Judges and foreign consular deputies have arisen. The climax was reached during the week, when a Dutch deputy over-ruled a Chinese Judge.  The case involved the reprimand of a Chinese lawyer guilty of contempt of court.  The Chinese president called on the consular body to withdraw the Dutch deputy.  The demand was refused.


Northern Standard (Darwin, Australia), 21 May 1929

Review of biography of Sir Edmund Hornby.

... was appointed judge of the Supreme Court of Constantinople in 1857, was sent in 1865 to China "to reform the Consular Court in the Far East," and retired in 1876 ...


The West Australian, 9 July 1929

... The Nanking Government is now framing regulations to abolish the Consular Courts from January 1 next.  Great Britain has affirmed always that her sole interest in the retention of these Courts was to protect the liberties and interests of British subjects until such time as China had a stable national government, and until she was satisfied that the state of Chinese laws and the arrangements for their administration warranted her surrendering those Courts. The Chinese affirm that these conditions are now fulfilled.  But as yet Nanking only rules certain provinces, ... the dismissal of President Loo, of the Shanghai Provisional Court, for not carrying out the wishes of the Government is disquieting.


Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, Australia), 30 August 1929



Shanghai, August 29.

Despite the agreement with Nanking that the Powers would withhold publication of the replies to the Chinese Note asking for the abolition of extra-territoriality, the text of the United States reply has been divulged.  It reviews the history of extraterritoriality and refers to the recommendation of the Extra-territoriality Commission in 1926. ...


Evening News (Sydney, Australia), 30 August 1929.



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