Mr. Hay to Mr. Conger.

No. 541.]

Sir: In March last the Department received a petition signed by Wong Leong and Ng Fawn and seventeen others, Chinese residents of Honolulu, Hawaii, making the following complaints against Mr. Yang Wei-pin, Chinese consul at Honolulu:

That Lam Sai having fallen under the displeasure of the consul, the latter reported Lam Sai to the taotai of Quang Tung Province, China, as being revolutionary and holding opinions adverse to the Government of China, in consequence of which report Lam Sai’s mother and grandmother, residing at Tong Ka, Heong San, Quang Tung, were arrested and imprisoned; and that while so incarcerated the mother committed suicide and the grandmother died, whether owing to tortures or not is unknown to the petitioners.

That the said consul has in several similar cases reported the supposed antidespotic belief entertained by Chinese residents of Hawaii, with the result of similar hardships to their innocent relatives residing in China.

That the said consul has instituted a form of certificate which Chinese residents were called on to procure from him, for which he made a charge of $5.25 each, such certificate declaring that the holder was a good man and not a member of any secret society antagonistic to the Chinese Government.

That said consul unreasonably increased the “charge for a certificate which warranted the late Government in issuing a permit for a wife or female relative or child or a resident Chinese to come to Hawaii,” from the old charge of $2 to $11 and $12.50.

That said consul makes a charge of $20 for a certificate extending the United States laborer’s certificate one year for alleged sickness of the holder.

That said consul has caused dissension and created suspicion among the Chinese in Hawaii.

Wherefore the petitioners ask that these charges be inquired into, and if found to be true, that said consul’s exequatur be recalled.

In a separate communication Wong Leong declares that the said consul reported to the governor of the province of Kwang Tung that he (Wong) was disloyal to the Government of China, and a member of a society in Honolulu antagonistic to said Government; that thereupon [Page 245] the Government caused the district magistrate to send a force to Wong’s native village, Tung Hon, Heong San, China, which took possession of the ancestral temple of his family, together with the family records, and demanded from the family the sum of $500; that under this coercion, his family, on July 10,1900, paid that sum to have the temple and records exempted from molestation; that subsequently the said magistrate took possession of his home in Tung Hon, and compelled his relatives there to pay a further sum of $500 to prevent its destruction; that, again, the magistrate threatened to arrest two of Wong’s cousins, his nearest of kin there, and that to save themselves from imprisonment they were compelled to pay a further sum of $250; that this was all done in pursuance of the report forwarded to the governor by Yang Wei-pin, consul; that his cousin writes him that the Wong family demand that he remit the sum of $1,250 to recoup the family for the amount paid by them on his account, and that in the event of his refusal or inability to remit, his inheritance will be canceled and his name struck from the roll of membership in the Wong clan.

Wherefore the said Wong demands from the Government of China, for the loss sustained and the suffering and anguish caused by the barbarous actions of Yang Wei-pin, consul, the sum of $5,000, and asks the Department of State to make request of the Government of China for payment thereof. He further asks the Department to recall the exequatur under which the said Yang Wei-pin is acting as consul.

Copies of these petitions were sent to the governor of Hawaii, with the request that he inquire carefully into the truth of the charges made against the consul and inform the Department of the result of his investigation.

It appears from the report of Acting Governor Cooper, which has just been received, that the first serious difference between the Chinese of Hawaii and their consul was brought about by the objection filed by the latter in March, 1900, to the granting of a charter to the “Bow Wong Progressive Association,” a petition for which had been presented to the minister of the interior. The basis of the consul’s objection to the Bow Wong Association, as stated by him, was that its design was, under the guise of a benevolent association, to inculcate political doctrines hostile to the Chinese Government and to collect contributions to aid a revolutionary movement. The result of the consideration of the matter by the executive council of Hawaii was a denial of the charter. It is stated that the Bow Wong Association was organized notwithstanding the granting of the charter was refused. The acting governor states that the leaders of the Bow Wong Association were among the most conservative and highly respected Chinese citizens in Hawaii.

The acting governor personally examined Wong Leong, He Fon, Ng Fawn, CI K. Ai, and Sheadick, five of the petitioners, Le Cheung, the governor’s official Chinese interpreter, and Wing Vun, who was in China at the time of the arrest of Wong Leong’s relatives, and a copy of their testimony is transmitted with his report.

Ho Fon, who the acting governor believes to be absolutely trustworthy, states in his examination that the Bow Wong people are sympathizers with the Emperor of China and opposed to the Dowager Empress.

In reference to the case of Lam Sai, it appears that about the time of the formation of the Bow Wong Association a prominent Chinese [Page 246] reformer named Leong Chi Tsao arrived in Honolulu, and during his stay was the guest of Lam Sai. It was well understood in Honolulu that the Chinese Government had placed a price on the head of Leong Chi Tsao and that Chinese had been warned not to associate with him. Ho Fon states that because Lam Sai harbored Leong Chi Tsao the consul sent a letter to China and made trouble for Lam Sai’s family, causing his grandmother and mother to be arrested; and that while under arrest his grandmother died and his mother committed suicide. He states that his grounds of information were a letter from Lam Sai’s father to Lam Sai, which the latter showed him, and also that many of his countrymen told him that it was the general reputation among his people that the thing happened.

C. K. Ai, in his statement, says that the object of the Bow Wong society is to reform China, to adopt Western ideas; that this is the idea of the Emperor; that he wants everything changed; that, before, he abolished some of the old forms, but his side was weak and they overthrew him. This witness corroborated Ho Fon’s view that the complaint of the consul against Lam Sai was because he had entertained Leong Chi Tsao. He said that the usual method employed in China to punish people supposed to be opposed to the Government was to imprison and behead them, their parents, uncles, and grandparents. He further stated that Lam Sai is now in China, at Shanghai.

Wong Leong, in his examination, stated that the object of the Bow Wong Association, of which he was president, was to support the Emperor in his efforts to reform. In corroboration of his complaint he delivered to Acting Governor Cooper two letters, from his sister in China, informing him of the threatened arrest of the members of his family in China and the payment of the sum mentioned in his petition to prevent such arrest and destruction of ancestral property. His sister states that the reason given for the action of the Chinese authorities was that he had joined the Bow Wong society. She requested him to refund the sum paid by his family.

Sheadick stated that he knew of the cases of Lam Sai and Wong Leong; that he had received his information from the parties themselves, also from a letter from his cousin in China. He also stated that it was published in a Chinese paper, which he saw, that the consul had written to the magistrate of Heong San district to make the arrests.

Ng Fawn, said to be one of the most intelligent and conservative members of the Chinese community in Hawaii, corroborated the statements of the other witnesses as to the complaints of the consul against Wong Leong and Lam Sai. He said that the reason of their trouble was that the former is a member of the Bow Wong society, and that Lam Sai had to do with Leong Chi Tsao. He stated that he had talked with the consul about the matter and had remonstrated with him against his action, but that he had been told to mind his business. The witness stated that since the complaint had been made against these parties by the Chinese consul he had seen a notice in a Chinese paper stating that the viceroy of Canton had informed the consul not to interfere with members of the society, and that since that time he had heard nothing about any further arrests.

Wong Vun states that he was in China when the Chinese soldiers came to the village where he lived and made a demand for the arrest of Wong Leong; that the elders explained that Wong Leong had been away from the country many years; that the soldiers wanted to take [Page 247] the ancestral temple as well as Wong Leong’s landed property, and that over $1,000 in Chinese money was paid them to secure immunity; that they subsequently went to another village and threatened to close the ancestral temple there if Wong Leong were not handed over to them; that the soldiers said that Wong Leong was a member of the Bow Wong society, and that the complaint was made by the Chinese consul in the Hawaiian Islands to the viceroy. He stated that the elders of the Wong clan paid the money to the Chinese officials from the Wong ancestral fund.

The statements in the petition of increased charges made by the consul for certificates for wives or female relatives of resident Chinese to come to Hawaii, extension of laborers’ certificates, and as to certificates for Chinese going to China are corroborated generally by the witnesses.

Li Cheung, the governor’s official interpreter, states that the Chinese consul at Honolulu was instructed by Mr. Wu, the Chinese minister at Washington, to advise the Chinese not to join or have anything to do with the Bow Wong society; that at the instance of the Chinese minister notices were published by the consul, stating that “anyone joining the society, there would be some trouble in China”—trouble with these people’s families in China.

This witness also stated that the customary way of punishing in China for any offense, when they can not get at the man who is guilty, is to take action against his people in China, his children, parents, grandparents, brothers, and cousins; that there are ancestral temples in China of different clans; that if a man had done anything wrong against the Government his name is liable to be stricken from the roll of the clan.

He stated that the feeling of discontent against the consul at Honolulu was confined to the Bow Wongs and to a certain extent to some people outside of the Bow Wongs. He said that the real interpretation of “Bow Wong” was “to protect the emperor.”

Two of the witnesses, when asked whether if Yang Wei-pin were removed his successor would not be as bad, replied that they thought not.

The acting governor, in his report, says:

My conclusion, based upon the statements submitted and upon a general inquiry into the matter, is that the complaints made by Wong Leong and Lam Sai are true.

The Bow Wong society was looked upon as a seditious organization and every effort was made by the Chinese authorities, acting through the consul, to suppress it, and the usual method was adopted to intimidate the Chinese residents in Honolulu from participating in any way in the revolutionary movement. The most formidable way of reaching the Chinese who are residents in a foreign country is to punish the members of their families in China, which is recognized as a very powerful weapon in the hands of the Government officials.

It will be observed from the foregoing that three citizens of the United States, namely, Wong Leong, Ng Fawn, and Lam Sai, have been vicariously punished for alleged political offenses committed within the United States. These political offenses appear to consist in their alleged membership of a society engaged in the dissemination of a propaganda unfavorable to the Chinese Government and promotive of a revolutionary movement.

Under the law of nations a state has the undoubted right to punish all political offenders against it who may be apprehended within its jurisdiction, but no state has the right to punish such offenders as may have found asylum in another state otherwise than by the seizure [Page 248] and confiscation of the property of the offenders, if such punishment is authorized by the local laws.

The vicarious punishment of such offenses by the imposition of fines and imprisonment upon the innocent kinsmen of the offender is a species of moral torture not only inconsistent with the enlightened principles and humane sentiments which govern the conduct of civilized states, but is a form of coercion incompatible with the enjoyment of the recognized rights of asylum, and in which, as applied to citizens of the United States, this Government could not acquiesce. It is not a question of the right of the Chinese Government to punish all offenders against its laws who may be found within its borders, but it is a question of the punishment of citizens of the United States in a cruel manner through heavy penalties inflicted upon persons who are in the eye of international law and upon principles of abstract justice innocent of any offense whatever.

You will therefore bring this grave matter to the serious attention of the Chinese Government, and you will express the expectation of this Government that the action of the former will respond to the sentiments of justice and humanity which have inspired the Government of the United States in bringing the matter to the attention of the Chinese Government.

I am, etc.,

John Hay.