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Colonial Cases

Kao Chin-yuen, 1899


Kao Chin-yuen

Mixed Court, Shanghai
12 May 1899
Source: North China Herald, 15 May 1899

  An important case was heard at the Mixed Court on Friday morning, 12th inst., before the Magistrate, Mr. Weng, and the British Assessor, Mr. Mayers.
  It appeared that about three months ago a well-known Chinese merchant connected with export shipping and who also is compradore of the Indo-China steamer Suiwo, named Kin Chin-piao, discovered that his concubine, whom he had bought some nine years ago and who had borne him a son and a daughter, had been having illicit relations with a notorious actor named Kao Chin-yuen. The injured husband's first discovery of how affairs stood was on the night of the 17th of February last, Happening to return home where both his wife and concubine lived, the former in the upper floor and the latter in the ground floor, and entering first the concubine's room he thought he heard a rustling noise as if someone were there.
  He at once entered the room and detected part of a man's dress appearing from a corner of the room where some boxes happened to be. He then rushed to the spot and collared the intruder, whom he recognised as the actor Kao Chai-yuen whom he had often seen on the stage of the Fukien Road theatre. But the moment Kin held the actor, the latter let fly and struck him full on the nose and so effected his escape.
  The second time the presence of the actor in his (Kin's) house was on the night of the 19th of March last. About midnight that day while engaged in his hong in giving instructions about the shipping of some goods away, Kin's 'ricsha coolie came up to him and said that this concubine had been complaining about being ill and had sent him (the 'ricsha coolie) to request Kin to return home as soon as possible. Kin accordingly did so, and, upon knocking at the back door for entrance to his house, was surprised to find that it was the concubine who opened the door for him, apparently appearing to be quite well. He at once asked her how she was feeling, when she suddenly seized hold of him by the queue, pulled him into her room and declared that she was determined to settle matters with him that night, and that she was willing to stake her own life upon the result.
  By this time she had pushed him to the side of the bed where he sat down, she still keeping a hold of his queue. At this moment Kao, the actor, again made his appearance from the back room, this time with a dagger in his hand - so it is alleged - and with a threatening attitude, Kao, backed by the concubine, demanded the release of the woman in his (Kao's) favour, together with the two children the woman had borne to Kin.  Naturally Kin objected, and upon seeing the threatening manner of his assailants he set up a cry for help. His wife living in the upper storey, heard the cry, and of course came down stairs.
  In the meanwhile the 'ricsha coolie, who had been occupied in bringing the 'ricsha from the back of the house to the front and putting it up for the night in the front alley, came to the front door of the house with the intention of entering the house.  He found the door locked, and then, hearing his master's cry for help. struck at the door to get it opened. This Kin's wife did and the two rushed into the concubine's room. As soon as the actor saw help come the rickshaw coolie declared that he saw the former put the dagger into its sheath in the region of his trousers. Having done so the actor rushed for the front door and again escaped.
  After this outrage Kin reported the matter to the police and got the former Mixed Court magistrate, Mr. Cheng, to issue a warrant, which having been signed by the Senior Consul, the actor was arrested to await his trial.  As this was a purely Chinese case, naturally it was tried y the Assistant Mixed Court Magistrate in the evening alone, when the accused was given 200 blows, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment, at the end of which he was to be deported to Tientsin - a very mild sentence in the eyes of the Chinese law, considering the circumstances of the case.
  Knowing the desperate character of the actor, Kin spoke to his masters the managers of the Indo-China Co., and a request was sent to the Captain-Superintendent of Police, asking that the prisoner be confined in the Municipal Goal, as confinement in the Mixed Court prison was mere "child's play." This accordingly was done, while the concubine was confined in the Female Refuge to await further disposition.
  This confinement of a prisoner in the Municipal Gaol, where no Foreign Assessor had been present at the trial was, therefore, made the plea for a re-trial before an Assessor; and Mr. H. P. Wilkinson (Crown Advocate) appeared on Friday morning on behalf of the prisoner who, by the way, came into Court still dressed in his convict's garb; Mr. E. Nelson (Messrs. Stokes and Platt) appeared on behalf of the injured husband. There was an attempt by the prisoner's Counsel to upset the evidence given, as above, in the first trial before the Assistant Magistrate, but it was not successful; while the presiding magistrate, Mr. Wang, agreed that, being a purely Chinese case, the prisoner should have been sent into the native city to be confined and not to the Municipal Gaol, as he remarked, sarcastically, the first sentence was rather too light and he and the City Magistrate would see to it that the prisoner should get his deserts according to Chinese law.
  The case was therefore decided to be sent to the native city, where, if the prisoner be unable to make good his defence, the chances will be that his sentence will be made much heavier.

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