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Colonial Cases

Mixed Court 1901-1909

The Coburg Leader (Vic.), 15 June 1901



   The present trouble in the Far East will make the mixed Courts a feature of every big Chinese city.  They will be established to try all disputes between foreigners and natives.  Shanghai has a mixed Court (writes Mr. Frank G. Carpenter from that city), with Chinese and foreign judges.  The American Judge is the Consul-General, although he is usually represented by the Interpreter of the Legation.  The native Judge is a mandarin of the seventh order, named Wang. The law and punishments used for cases in which Chinese only are interested are practically Chinese, the Chinese judge being allowed to have his own way except when Europeans are interested. ...


Los Angeles Herald, 24 October 1903


Diplomats Consign Them to Mixed Court.

   SHANGHAI, Oct. 23. - The diplomats at Peking have unanimously decided that the Supao prisoners must be promptly tried by the mixed court here.

   The Supao is a journal published at Shanghai, a treaty port, by a number of young "literati." They printed some articles strongly denouncing the Manchu rulers of China as the hereditary rulers of the nation.  The matter attracted the attention of the Chinese authorities, and the consular body of Shanghai was approached by the taotai of that city with a view to the apprehension of the offending reformers.  It was then agreed between the Tao Tai and the consuls that the journalists should be put under arrest and tried by the mixed court, and that if found guilty they should undergo punishment in the foreign settlement.

   The arrest of the reformers which followed was made under this express understanding, but while the case was pending before the mixed court the imperial government at Peking virtually disavowed the Shanghai tao tai's compact with the consuls and demanded the surrender of the prisoners.  The question was thus transferred from the Shanghai consults to the foreign ministers at Peking.


The Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 January 1904


   It is a curious anomaly that from China, the most exclusive and conservative country in the world, should come the first case of reporting by a machine, always excepting the "Machine Michela" in use in the Italian Senate.  On October 5 in the Mixed Court of Shanghai, a case between a firm of merchants and a Chinaman, one Woo Tsiang Sun, was reported on the Stenotype shorthand machine.  The possibility of reporting in printed type opens up a large field;  ...   The technicalities of expression, consequent on the pleadings of Dr. Vouswerk in defence of Woo Tsiang Sun's refusal to accept a shipment of Singapore tin, might be expected to tax the capabilities of any reporter or reporting machine, and the proverbial irritability of the Englishman in the East, and of magistrates in particular, should be a guarantee of the noiselessness of the instrument in question.


The Mercury (Hobart), 14 December 1905



LONDON, December 13.

   Owing to a dispute arising in connection with the question of mixed jurisdiction, a number of Chinese at Shanghai resolved to-day numbers of dollar notes, hoping to cause a run on the Hongkong-Shanghai Bank.

   The object is to compel the dismissal of the obnoxious British assessors from the mixed court.

   Native bankers refuse to assist the movement, and advise that only peaceful methods be adopted.

   The Shanghai correspondent of "The Times" declared on Monday that there was an unmistakable movement among the Chinese in the direction of deliberate, organised resistance to all foreign influence.  The correspondent advised that united action be taken in the matter, especially by the commercial Powers.]


The Advertiser (Adelaide), 15 December 1905



LONDON, December 14.

   The trouble which has arisen in Shanghai as a result of certain verdicts given by the courts of mixed jurisdiction still continues.  The Tao-tai (an officer presiding over a Chinese Court of Shanghai) is upholding the merchants, who have demanded the dismissal of certain British assessors.  The Tao-tai has closed all mixed courts, and refused to reopen them unless the British assessors are removed.  The Chinese Government, he adds, intend in the future to insist on increased authority being conceded them by the Powers in the settlement of their own affairs.


The Advertiser (Adelaide), 16 December 1905



LONDON, December 13.

   In connection with the dispute at Shanghai regarding the court of mixed jurisdiction - many of whose verdicts have given great dissatisfaction - and the demands by Chinese merchants that the British assessors should be dismissed from their posts, the consuls of the Powers have ordered the municipal council to release unconditionally a woman who was charged before the mixed court with kidnapping girls.

   The European residents of Shanghai consider that the release of the woman is a "lamentable concession" to the popular clamour organised by the leaders of the boycott against foreign goods.  The latter contended that the woman ought to have been imprisoned in a Chinese and not in the municipal gaol.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 December 1905.




LONDON, Dec. 15.

   The Consuls at Shanghai have ordered the municipal council to release unconditionally a Chinese woman charged before the Mixed Court with kidnapping European girls.

   Europeans consider it a lamentable concession to popular clamour, which was organised by leaders of the boycott, who claimed that the woman ought to have been confined in the Chinese not in the municipal gaol.

    *     *     *

   The arrest of the woman at Shanghai on a charge of being concerned in the kidnapping of European girls for immoral purposes arose from discoveries made by local, federal and police authorities in Chicago.  Forty-nine American and Canadian young girls, so far as can be traced, have been sold into what is practically slavery in China.  A woman in Chicago and the woman charged at Shanghai were the leaders in the practice.  The United States immigration authorities reported the sale of a girl named Louise Miller, of Montreal, to the agent of a Chinese official in Shanghai.  Three waitresses from Montreal, who were induced to come to Chicago, met with the same fate.  Other evidence is also adduced as to the extent of the traffic.

   The plan of the gang who effected the sales is believed to be as follows:- Unsuspecting girls are offered a position as high servants to a wealthy Chinaman, and when they reach China are sent under guard to their purchasers, who have previously paid from L. 100 to L. 200 per head for them.  Many are supposed to be held prisoners in the palaces of wealthy Chinaman.  If such crimes are possible in America, are they not possible in Australia?


Daily News (Perth), 16 December 1905.



LONDON, December 15.

   It has been explained that the Chinese woman, who was released at Shanghai at the instance of the consuls after she had been charged before the mixed court, with having kidnapped girls, is the wife of a Chinese official.

   The Government of China has guaranteed her innocence of the charge.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 December 1905



   An edict by the Empress Dowager orders the Viceroy of Liang-kiang (Tcheau-fu) to proceed to Shanghai and punish all implicated in the riots in the city, and to impeach the civil and military officials responsible for the outbreak.

   The edict states that the local officials ignored the previous order from the Imperial Government to proceed with the business of the Mixed Court pending an investigation by th4 Government.


The Mercury (Hobart), 25 December 1905

Mixed Court difficulty at Shanghai has been settled.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 December 1905

The mixed court difficulty at Shanghai has been settled, and the British assessor remains.




LONDON, Dec. 23.

 Tcheau-fu, the Viceroy of the Liang-kiang, has settled the difficulty regarding the Mixed Court at Shanghai.  The British Assessor, Mr. H. H. Bristow, with whom the Chinese magistrate refused to sit, will remain in office.


The Advertiser (Adelaide), 27 December 1905



LONDON, December 25.

The trouble concerning the court of mixed jurisdiction at Shanghai is now at an end, and the courts have been reopened with German assessors.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 December 1905


LONDON, Dec. 26.

   The mixed court at Shanghai has re-opened.  As the case before the Court concerned a German subject, German assessors sat with the Chinese magistrate.


The Daily News (Perth), 27 December 1905



   The mixed courts at Shanghai have re-opened after the recent trouble.

   Although it was announced that the British assessor, against whom the Chinese objected, was to remain, it now appears that the court re-opened with German assessors.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 December 1905


LONDON, Dec. 28.

   All is now quiet at Shanghai.  Mr. H. H. Bristow, the British Assessor, has resumed his seat in the Mixed Court.


Morning Post (Cairns), 30 December 1905.


Captain Knollys has resumed his seat on the mixed court at Shanghai.  All is quiet.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January 1906

[Good summary of the Mixed Court affair.]


The Evening News (Sydney) 9 June 1906




SHANGHAI, April 9, 1906.

... Strenuous efforts were made after that affair to do away altogether with the Mixed Court, and have Chinese offenders tried by their own countrymen only; but here the municipal council;, having the support of the whole foreign community to back them, stood firm and the mixed Court remain, and will remain, as heretofore, although the failure of the Chinese to gain their point will not fail to rankle in their minds, and will be productive of future trouble. ...


The Brisbane Courier, 13 April 1907



HONGKONG, March 22.


   On the 1st instant Collins again achieved notoriety.  His previous exploit as a Russian spy gained him a sentence of eleven years' imprisonment in Japan, but he was released on the conclusion of hostilities.  Now he reappears in Tientsin, en route for Peking, and the contents of his pockets equal in the aggregate a very nice explosive of the bomb kind.  His arrest was due to the smartness of the Chinese detectives organized by the direction of the Reform Viceroy, Yuan shih-kai, and he has been tried before a mixed court at Tientsin.  Some of his confederates are believed to have gained admission to Peking, where they were awaiting him.  Collins declared that he was simply employed to bring explosives to the vicinity of the capital for mining purposes.  The Peking authorities take a very different view of the matter, as they are doubtless justified in doing, owing to the widespread evidences of anti-dynastic feeling and revolutionary aims, though this does not necessarily mean a common movement to shake off the Manchu yoke. ....


The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 July 1907

Curious Medicine.

At the instance of a Chinese gentleman, said to be a brother of one of the magistrates, a shopkeeper was charged at the Mixed Court at Shanghai, on June 6 (reports the "North China Herald"), with selling a cake unfit for human consumption.  The cake was produced in court, and contained quite an entomological collection, including several cockroaches, two or three centipedes, and a beetle.  A servant of the complainant gave evidence of buying the cake.  Accused apologised for his mistake.  He had prepared the cake as medicine for himself.  His assistant had sold it to the servant by mistake.  He was fined two dollars and cautioned.


Sunday Times (Sydney), 15 March 1908


   An extraordinary case of kidnapping was taken before the Mixed Court by the West Hongkew police, says a Shanghai paper.  The evidence given by a detective was to the effect that a native reported that his little daughter was missing, and that he had reason to believe that she was locked up in the house of Chang Zang-zung, who lived near the police station.  The detective and the complainant visited the house and found the missing girl, and seven other small children, playing together in a back room.  Scattered about the floor was a collection of mechanical toys, evidently provided to keep the children contented.  The detective asked the proprietor of the house whose children they were, and was informed that they belonged to the neighbors, and that the room was used as a play ground. 

   Complainant's little girl, however, related how she had been decoyed into the house, and prevented, subsequently, from going home.  Chang was arrested, therefore, and in the house were found receipts for the purchase of seven children and several letters from Singapore, which proved that Chang had for some time carried on an extensive traffic in children.  Buyers in Singapore had been paying him 200 dollars each for the children, and the seven receipts, all duly signed by seller, buyer, middleman and witness, showed that the local purchase price was 50 dollars each.  The Court sentenced the accused to four years' imprisonment with hard labor, and ordered the 1000 dollars found in the house to be given to such charitable organisations as will be arranged.  The children whose parents are not known have been handed over to "the Door of Hope."


Evening News (Sydney) 5 December 1908   


   A rather extraordinary and romantic story was related to the Mixed Court at Shanghai, says the "Celestial Empire."  The complainant was a smart-looking native, about 25 years old, and he accused a Kiukiang-road shopkeeper of casing him bodily harm by throwing him from a window on the second floor of Nr. 126 Kiukiang-road.

   The shopkeeper's wife was undoubtedly the cause of the trouble.  Having tired of her husband, she became friendly with the complainant, who, in the husband's absence, had been in the habit of visiting her at home.  The shopkeeper had been ignorant of what was going on, though once or twice his wife's conduct had aroused his suspicions.  Returning home early one morning his fears were confirmed, for he was shocked to find his wife and the complainant together.  The three engaged in a heated quarrel which ended in the husband tying a rope round the complainant's waist and pitching him through the window.  The other end of the rope had been safely secured to a hook on the window, and, it not being of sufficient length to reach the ground, the complainant was left dangling and struggling in mid-air.  In this most uncomfortable position he was allowed to remain for quite a little time, in which nearly the whole neighborhood turned out to "look-see" a very amusing and curious picture.

   Eventually the man was released from his suspension by the husband cutting the rope with a pair of scissors, and he fell with a crash on to the pavement - a distance of several feet - sustaining a nasty injury about the jaw.

   This he exhibited in court, also the deep marks on his body caused by the rope; while, in addition, his clothes were all stained with blood.

   Defendant denied the use of the rope.  He stated that he had a struggle with the complainant, during which the latter fell though the window.  When handed over to the police the scissors were found in his possession, and the rope was also found near the window of the house.

   The Court ordered both accused and accuser to find security for their future good behaviour.


Sydney Morning Herald, 27 September 1909


LONDON, Sept. 24.

   A serious boycott of British steamers has occurred in Kiu-kiang, one of the treaty ports in China, on account of the acquittal of Inspector Mears on a charge of manslaughter of a Chinaman.

   The Government at Peking has ordered the cessation of the boycott, but it still continues.


  Mr. Tong Chi Chih, editor of the "Tung Wah Times," in reference to the above cable stated last night:-

   The trouble originated on April 16 of this year, when Inspector Meares, at Kau King, in the province of Kiang-si, struck a Chinese by the name of Yee Far Chun.  It is stated that Yee Far Chun was walking along a street in the settlement allotted to foreigners when Inspector Mears struck him a blow with a stick which felled him.  Ye e Far Chun was taken to the hospital, where he died.  The Chinese authorities then informed the British Consul, and an English doctor was called in to examine the body.  He expressed the opinion that death was due to natural causes.  Dissatisfied with this verdict, the Chinese authorities had recourse to an American doctor.  The latter stated that death, in his opinion, had followed as a result of the blow.

   The authorities the sent a special commissioner to the British Consul, asking him to have the matter thoroughly investigated.  The request was ignored.  The decision of the British Consul caused quite a sensation amongst the native population of the cities of Shanghai, Nanking and Kiang-si.  Cables were sent to th4 Viceroy of Nanking and to the Governor of Kiang-si informing them of the assault and its result, and further stating that to let the matter drop without investigation would be a national disgrace.

   In August the British Consul decided to have a case brought on in the Mixed Court at Kiu Kiang.  During the course of the trial no Chinese official was allowed to enter the court, and they were not represented, as is customary in cases of this description, on the Bench.  On August 14, the last day of the trial, the British Consul informer the Chinese authorities that there was no evidence to show that the blow administered by Inspector Mears caused the death of Yee Far Chun.  Inspector Mears was forthwith discharged.  The Chinese authorities then demanded that the case should be re-tried at a higher Court.  This proposal met with a blunt refusal from the British Consul.  Indignation meetings were then called by the Chinese, at which it was decided to demand another trial, on the ground that the previous trial had not been a fair one, as China had no representative sitting on the Bench.

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