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
Mr. Conger to
Legation of the United States,
F. O., No. 413.]
Peking, August 14, 1902.
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
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
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
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.,