Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.

No. 1070.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of Department instructions No. 541, of the 2d ultimo, concerning complaints made by certain Chinese residents in Honolulu, Hawaii, against the actions of the Chinese consul there stationed, and the consequent vicarious punishment of their relations in China.

I have, as directed, brought the matter to the attention of the Chinese Government by the note a copy of which I inclose, and shall report its answer as soon as received.

This vicarious punishment of the relatives of accused Chinese, escaped or in hiding, is an ancient practice and still very generally followed here, but so barbarous and inhuman that it ought to be stopped. I am glad to be asked to take it up on behalf of citizens of the United States.

I have, etc.,

E. H. Conger.

Mr. Conger to Prince Chi’ng.

F. O., No. 413.]

Your Highness: I have received instructions from my Government, through the honorable Secretary of State, to bring to the notice of your highness certain complaints from Chinese residents at Honolulu, citizens of the United States of America, who sent a petition last March to the Department of State, making the following accusation against Mr. Yang Wei-pin, Chinese consul at Honolulu:

That a certain Lam Sai, having fallen under the displeasure of the consul, the latter reported Lam Sai to a tao-tai in Kwangtung 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 in Kwangtung, were arrested and imprisoned, and that while so incarcerated the mother committed suicide and the grandmother died.

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 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 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 dissensions 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 Kwangtung that he (Wong) was disloyal to the Government of China and a member of a society in Honolulu antagonistic to said Government; that thereupon the Government caused the district magistrate to send a force to Wong’s native village, which took possession of the ancestral temple of his family and demanded from the family various sums, which were paid under coercion to save their property from destruction and themselves from imprisonment.

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 Consul [Page 252] Yang Wei-pin the sum of $5,000. And he asks the Department of State to make request of the Government of China for payment thereof.

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.

Acting Governor Cooper personally examined petitioners and found that the feeling of discontent against the consul at Honolulu was confined to the Bow Wong Progressive Association, and to a certain extent to some people outside of the Bow Wongs.

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.”

Your highness will observe that citizens of the United States, 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 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 the citizens of the United States, this Government could not acquiesce. It is not the question of the right of the Chinese Government to punish all offenders against its Jaws who may be found within its border, but it is the 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 the international law and upon principles of abstract justice, innocent of any offense whatever.

Therefore, complying with my instructions, I hasten to present this grave matter for the serious consideration of the Imperial Government, and to express to your highness the expectation of my Government that the Chinese Government will take such prompt action as will adequately respond to the sentiments of justice and humanity which have inspired the Government of the United States in bringing it to the attention of the Chinese Government.

This is very important to China, particularly at a time when she is enlarging and making more intimate her friendly relations with the other governments of the world.

I avail, etc.,

E. H. Conger.