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Colonial Cases

Japanese Consular Cases, 1888

[minor cases]

Japanese Consular Cases

Japanese Consular Court, Shanghai
13 August 1888
Source: North China Herald, 18 August 1888

13th August.
  The result of the enquiry into the disturbance by Japanese sailors on the 20th ult. has been made known.  Two of the men are sentenced to fourteen days' severe confinement with reduction of 5/10 part of wages.  Two are sentenced to three months' imprisonment and all allowances during the time, and six are sentenced to 21 days' severe confinement.
  At the Japanese Consulate the case of the boy who attempted to stab P. C. Jones was gone into on Monday afternoon.
  H. Jones, Police Detective, stated - On the afternoon of the 29th July, I arrested a Japanese sailor with a billet of wood in his hand outside the Hongkew Police Station during the disturbance, P.C. Grouleff was in my company at the time.  This boy (defendant) came up two or three paces behind some of the men. When the boy saw I had the sailor in custody, he came to the front with an open penknife in his right hand, and I thought he intended to stab me with the knife as he assumed a threatening attitude.  I then let go the sailor and seized the boy by the wrist, and intended to lock him up.  In doing so my hand was slightly cut.  The wound did not prevent me doing my duty. The knife is in the hands of the Court.
  N. Grouleff, Police Constable, said:- While detective Jones was trying to take a billet of wood from a sailor on the afternoon of the disturbance I was outside the Hongkew Statin.  I saw this boy come out of the crowd of sailors with an open penknife in his hand, with the intention of attacking P. C. Jones.  Jones let go the Japanese sailor and arrested this boy.  I saw him struggling with the boy and trying to take the knife away.  Shortly afterwards I saw the knife in Jones' hand, but the boy was rescued by the sailors.  I did not see the boy attempt to take the billet of wood from the sailor.  The sailor was on the right hand side of Jones, and the boy came from the left.  The boy was not in a position to take the billet of wood away from the sailor.
  Mr. McEuen remarked that if the boy's intentions were peaceable, why should he come up with an open knife in his hand?
  Judgment will be given at 11 o'clock next morning (14th.)
  At the Japanese Consulate on Tuesday, the boy belonging to the Japanese Post Office, who attempted to stab detective Jones during the disturbance on 20th ult. was sentenced to one month's imprisonment and a fine of $2.


Source: North China Herald, 27 July 1888

The disturbance which took place last Friday in Hongkew was of a kind that is fortunately not of frequent occurrence here.  Perhaps sailors are becoming better mannered or their officers take care to impress upon them the necessity for good behavior while on shore.  Anyway, our streets have not for some years past exhibited the noisy, more or less tipsy, and somewhat dangerous crowd of sailors on leave which were formerly to be seen.  The men come on shore and have their frolic or more sedate amusements, and though some of them take their pleasures in ways that would bear reform, it is very seldom that the public peace is seriously endangered by their proceedings.
  Sailors of the men-of-war of all nations except Russia and Japan are not allowed by their officers to carry knives when on shore here, and this, besides lessening the danger to each other when quarrels break out and to such members of the community as might happen to get mixed up in their rows, very greatly decreases the tendency to quarrel among the men themselves.  Men who have no intention of killing or wounding are lead to swagger when they have a knife handy, and swaggering on one side leads to swaggering in the other and so a fight with knives begins.  The Municipal Regulations forbid the carrying of fire arms within the settlements and it would be very desirable that the carrying of knives by sailors should also be prohibited. Unfortunately, however, the Ratepayers have not the power which would make such a regulation binding on the officers and crews of men-of-war such as would be made in any colony or country. It would be workable only if the commanders of men-of-war, which visit this port would enforce its provisions on their crews, and we should think that they would find it to their interest to do so.  At present, in some cases, if men-of-war's men are found using knives in their quarrels, or threatening to use them, they are handed over to their Commanders who punish them at their discretion. That is all very well, but what is wanted for the protection of the community is an absolute prohibition by captains of men-of-war of the carrying of knives by their sailors when on shore within the Settlements of Shanghai.
  The disturbance on Friday last night quite easily have become a much more serious affair than our account of it shews it to have been. What we had to tell was bad enough.  It was a very serious thing when a hundred and fifty sailors, armed with knives, banded themselves together to attack the police station, and some of their officers stood by and did not attempt to restrain them.  The latter point is the most serious in the whole affair.  We do not expect overmuch in the way of behaviour from a number of common seamen, possibly slightly excited with drink, who see some of their comrades in the hands of the police.  But we do expect, and we have been accustomed to see persons wearing uniforms to conduct themselves in such circumstances like officers and gentlemen, and employing all their authority, using every personal exertion, to restore order among their riotous men.  Such conduct as that shewn by some of the Japanese Officers could not be palliated even if they had seen their men ill-used by the police, of which no charge has been mad; the officer is bound to remember his duty at all times and to be uninfluenced by  personal feeling.
  We do not doubt that the Japanese Admiral will cause the fullest investigation into the whole occurrences of Friday, and more particularly into what some of his officers did or did not do during the disturbances, and that, when it is proved that any of them interfered with the police or encouraged the rioters by their silence or indifference such a punishment will follow as will be impressed on the memories of officers and crews of the Japanese navy.  And Consul Takahira of course understands that the public expect to hear that he has punished the member of the Consular or Post Office staff who ran at a policeman with a knife and was left at the close of the examination on Saturday apparently defying the orders of the court with his arms akimbo.  The dignity of the Japanese Consul requires his punishment.
  We have said that the disturbance might easily have become very serious.  The locality is thickly inhabited and to a large extent by not the most law-abiding class of Chinese in our community.  The swaggering conduct of the Japanese sailors who had been on leave on previous days has produced an unfriendly feeling among the Chinese in the neighbourhood, hundreds of whom would have eagerly joined in an attack on the rioters.  Fortunately this was prevented by the steadfastness of the foreign police, and by their retaining the prisoners they had taken.  Had the police been unable to do his, the Japanese would, as signs show, have been attacked by hundreds of Chinese artizans and coolies armed with bamboos and staves.  In such an event the consequences must have been very serious, and it must be mortifying to the Japanese Admiral and to the Japanese authorities that persons wearing their uniform should have so little know how to conduct themselves and have declined, when appealed to, to assist the police.
[See also 'THE FRACAS WITH JAPANESE SAILORS. As follows: On Saturday morning, Mr. Takahira, the Japanese Consul, held an inquiry at his Consulate into the circumstances attending the stabbing of a Sikh and a Chinese policemen on Friday last by Japanese men-of-war sailors.  Captain Superintendent McEuen sat with the Consul, and the only evidence taken was that of the Police. .  .  .  
The Consul intimated to Mr., McEuen that he had no authority over the sailors, but that he would send a copy of the evidence to the Japanese Admiral at Woosung, and when a reply had been received would communicate it to the Police.  We understand that the obstreperous sailors have all been sent down to their ships. .  .  .  
  The Court ordered the boy to be called and Jones identified him, and the knife with which the youth had attempted to do the stabbing.  The Consul said something to a Japanese in Court, and the individual peremptorily ordered the boy out of Court.  The boy placed his arms akimbo, faced the subordinate, and did not appear inclined to leave. Also follows Letter from Capt. McEuen and Editorial comment.]

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