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Colonial Cases

Li Ayew, 1876

[rape, Chinese Court]

Li Ayew

Chinese Court
Sung Chef Hsien, 6 march 1876
Source: The North China Herald, 9th March 1876



Before SUNG Chef Hsien

March 6th.

Atrocious Case of Rape

   Yesterday afternoon, a native Court was held to infuscate a charge of rape on a child nine years of age, brought by a foreigner against Li Ayew, a Chinese watchman in his service.  The Court was composed of Sung, Che Hsien; Mo, Taotai's Deputy; and Hsien, the Mixed Court Magistrate.  There were also present to watch the case. W. H. Medhurst, Esq., H.B.M.'s Consul; W. M. Cooper, Esq., Acting Vice-Consul; C. F. R. Allen, Esq., and R. A. Mowat, Esq., Police Magistrate.  Yang Heding acted as interpreter.

   The details of the case are unfit for publication, but as a warning to parents to keep their children as much as possible away from native servants, it may be stated that the prisoner was previously in the employ of prosecutor as mafoo, but left, and was absent some weeks, when he returned, and pleading poverty, was taken on again as watchman, and to live in the house.  He had only been back again a shirt time, when the subject of investigation happened.

   From the evidence adduced, it appeared that on the 29th ult., the child's mother sent her upstairs to quiet a baby that was crying.  She had barely ascended two stairs, when the prisoner called to her to come and show him where the pony's corn was kept.  She returned and went with him into a store-room, when he immediately seized her, bundling her tightly so as to prevent her crying out, and proceeded to the utmost brutality.  On releasing the child, he told her not to tell her father or mother, for, if she did, her father would cut his head off, and the mother would cut her's (the child's) off.  This, with the dreadful treatment she had undergone, so frightened her that she made no complaint of the occurrence to anyone, and it was not until two days afterwards that discovery was made.  The child on being questioned, at once described what had happened, and the prisoner was given into custody.

   Surgical examination showed that the capital offence had been committed, and that the child was also suffering in other ways.  On being called before the Court, she told her story in an artless, straightforward manner, and at once identified the prisoner, who had been put back among the crowd of native attendants of the court.  The prisoner doggedly persisted in saying that he knew nothing of the affair.  It was proved, however, that he was suffering in the same way as the child; and also, that on being taken into custody, he said to the constable, "Do you think they will take my head off?"

   The Chehsien and Mixed Court Magistrate many time adjured him to tell the truth, promising to endeavour to get his punishment lightened "on account of the age of his father (61 years)" if he would so so; and the latter also suggested to the prisoner that he might plead insanity, or sudden impulse, or weakness; but the most that could be got out of him was that he was flying a kite, which the little girl wanted; that he refused to give it her, whereupon she persisted, and that he then kicked her.

   Much time was spent in the endeavours to get him to confess, and in addition to the above, all sorts of suggestions were made to him, but the invariable reply was, in effect, "that the thing never happened, that it was impossible for him to contradict a foreigner, and that if the Chehsien and foreigner said it had happened, let it be so, and they could do with him as they would."  Ultimately the Chiehsien suggested that the prisoner should ne chastised, to make him confess, and the bamboo, cheek-flippers, and chains for kneeling on were proposed; but Mr. Medhurst objecting to the employment of torture in the presence of British officials, it was afterwards thought the best course was to send him into the City to be dealt with at the Chehsien's yamen.  The Chehsien told the prisoner there was plenty of evidence against him to satisfy the Court; but in conformity with Chinese rule and law, he must be made to confess.  The prisoner was then handcuffed and taken away.  The invariable punishment for an offence of this kind in China, is decapitation.

   After the departure of the prisoner, the Chehsien asked to see the room where the offence had been committed, and to have the child requested to shew him where she was placed by the prisoner.  This the child did in a straightforward and intelligent manner, which carried conviction to all who heard her.

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