Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 8, 1908
File No. 1518/113–114.
Chargé Fletcher to the Secretary of State.
Peking , January 10, 1908 .
Sir: I have the honor to inclose translation of a memorial, which has received the imperial sanction, recommending the establishment of a new judicial system in Peking.
I have, etc.,
Memorial of the board of law recommending the establishment of a new series of courts in Peking—Imperial sanction given.
[From the Cheng Chih Kuan Pao, Dec. 12, 1907.]
This memorial giving particulars of the proposed series of courts for Peking is reverently laid before the Throne. The ministers of this board memorialized the Throne on November 8 to the effect that the establishment of the proposed series of courts in Peking would be attended by considerable difficulty and that it was desirable to postpone their opening for one month, which request was granted.
These courts of exclusive jurisdiction are constituted in conformity with international usage. Peking, being the foremost place in the country, is bound to be observed by all. We, having received the imperial commands, after much consultation drew up some rules for these courts and asked that the bureau for the collation of administrative methods revise them. They seemed rather numerous. Judicious selection must be made. The head of the superior court reports that while the said court is opened, yet some adjustment will have to be made before it will run with perfect smoothness.
We reverently state that December 9, 1907, has been selected as the date for the inauguration of the new judicial system. It is evident that Peking is an extensive area and will be difficult to cover. But it is now determined to provide the Inner City with three precinct courts and the Outer City with two. We observe that the board of home affairs divides the Inner City into 26 wards and the Outer City into 20. Whatever criminal or civil cases arise in these wards will be taken to that newly created court, under whose jurisdiction it would fall. For the area outside the walls no provision has yet been made in the way of new courts. So more trivial offenses may be left to the settlement of the courts already existent. Serious cases must be taken to the nearest precinct court. All the legal affairs of the Imperial Prefecture of Peking (Shun T’ien Fu) which are brought to Peking for settlement shall be under the juris-’diction of the newly established courts. The yamens of the district magistrates of Wan P’ing and Ta Hsing Hsiens will cease to have judicial jurisdiction.1
Consideration of the question of extending this system of courts over all the territory of the Two Hsiens and the Imperial Prefecture will have to come about through consultation of the Prefect of Shun T’ien and the Viceroy of Chihli with this board. Before it is done it would be well for the said prefect to appoint judges who shall have no other duty than to attend to the lawsuits of that part of the districts of Wan P’ing and Ta Hsing, which lie without the two cities. These judges should temporarily conform to the rules drawn up [Page 179] by this board. Limits of jurisdiction should be clearly laid down. When the former five superintendents of police were abolished, and all civil cases and the less serious criminal cases were transferred to the two superior and five lower courts, it was understood that the plan was merely temporary. Now that the precinct courts are established they will take over any unfinished cases of the temporary courts. But this must be done methodically or great confusion may be occasioned, which would delay matters. We intend requesting the board of home affairs to direct the temporary courts to quickly conclude such cases as may be speedly finished. But if it is not possible to terminate their work these courts will thoroughly investigate and make clear records of all cases pending, enumerate them, and hand over this data to the chief precinct court. The chief precinct court will notify the right precinct court of the receipt of the case in question and hand it over on demand. The temporary courts will make out clear statements and classifications of all cases on hand before handing them all over at the last of this moon (Jan. 3, 1908). Also all the cases on hand in the yamens of the Wan P’ing and Ta Hsing districts; that is, all cases the parties to which are residents of either of the two cities, will be similarly dealt with.
The cases in the high court of justice need not be transferred, inasmuch as to do so would cause much inconvenience, and such cases will hereafter be taken charge of by the superior court.
From December 10, 1907, all civil and criminal cases will be filed in the first instance exclusively in the precinct courts. The above directions with regard to the transfer of cases will be carefully carried into effect.
Methods of government are of serious potentialities for the well-being, or otherwise, of the people. Judicial officers must of necessity be twice as circumspect as other officers. It is extremely necessary that men of training and intelligence be chosen in anticipation of emergencies. We, the officials of the board of law, have selected from among our subordinates men of good records and transferred them to the precinct courts without raising their rank. We shall also examine others, expectant officials and others, and either by memorializing the Throne for their transfer or by direct arrangement we shall appoint them to the lower positions in these courts. When it is judged that they have the requisite experience and have been proved to have abilities we shall memorialize the Throne to have them appointed to acting positions.
All the above has been communicated to the board of civil office for record as being an important matter demanding extreme care in its transaction.
That the above three subjects (N. B., the jurisdiction of the different courts, the handing over of current business, and the method of selecting men for the offices) be clearly understood and settled is of great importance to each precinct court, for only in this way will their respective duties be kept distinct. Likewise must every man attend exclusively to his own duties. We, the officials of the board of law, are in responsible charge of these courts.
We have made out the above explicit statement of procedure for the information of the officers of these courts and await only the imperial sanction before publishing them for observance. If any matter not provided for in the above instructions shall arise, it is left to the judges of the respective precinct courts to render an honest and careful decision. This memorial is written to aid the Throne’s benevolent intention to save the people from lawsuits. Thus, the time set for opening the respective courts and the general method of their operation is reverently laid before the Throne.
Rescript issued giving assent.
Proclamation by the board of law establishing a new system of courts in Peking.
The board of law issues this proclamation for the information of the people.
Judicial functions in a government are to be differentiated from administrative. The duties of a judge are not similar to those of the police department. The essential characteristic of legal authority is that it shall be absolute in its field. At the present time the Throne has established institutions [Page 180] whereby the affairs of the people may gain publicity and their interests may be safeguarded. Untiring efforts have been made in this direction and the measures taken have been most comprehensive. In the establishment of a legal code it is primarily important to have judicial officers whose exclusive duty it shall be to administer it.
The officers of this board are the supreme judicial authorities of the Empire. The task has been undertaken of reforming legal procedure, and we have received permission from the Throne to establish in Peking a system of courts which, with the high court of justice, will be of four grades, three being below the said high court. Not only is the jurisdiction of the courts of these several grades clearly defined, but their proper precedence will be observed. The examination into cases will be thorough and every case will stand on its own merits. There must be no hidden injustice and the prerogative of the several courts must be observed. The object shall be in this way to strengthen the national judiciary and bring happiness and contentment to the people. It is the aim of the officers of this board to devise methods of maintaining the peace of the people.
Lawsuits are invariably occasioned by deception and there is no judge who can discern the facts of the case at first glance. In order to enable him to arrive at the facts of each case every court will have an investigation bureau to assist the judge. The investigating officer will be aided by the police and various guards and their sole duty is to make clear the true inwardness of the case. But dependence must be placed on the police, constabulary, etc., to ascertain most of the facts. The above are all necessary adjuncts of the law court.
These new courts have now been installed and this proclamation is issued for the information of the Inner and the Outer Cities. Henceforth, when it is desired to institute legal proceedings against anyone the paper provided by this board for the purpose may be procured and the complaint written and filed at the correct court. Each court, whether sitting on criminal or civil cases, must be governed by the laws of the Empire and the special regulations promulgated by this board. Our country has been unstinting of expense in creating these courts for the protection of the persons and property of its citizens. Its citizens should therefore accord due reverence to the Throne for its virtue. This board expects the citizens to prove themselves worthy to yield faithful allegiance to the courts. Below is detailed the situation of each of the courts:
- The superior court is situated on the west side and at the southern end of the street of the board of punishments.
- The chief precinct court is situated in the center of Teng Shih K’ou, on the south side of the street.
- The precinct court of precinct No. 1 is situated inside the north gate of the Imperial City, in the place called Huang Hua Men, on the south side of the street.
- The precinct court of precinct No. 2 is situated near the Tung Tan P’ai-lou, in the place called Ch’i Feng Lou, on the south side of the street.
- The precinct court of precinct No. 3 is situated near the Hsi Tan P’ai-lou, at the end of the Pao-tze Chieh, on the south side of the street.
- The precinct court of precinct No. 4 is situated outside the Ha-ta Men, in the center of the Ch’ing Hua Ssu Chieh, on the south side of the street.
- The precinct court of precinct No. 5 is situated in the place called P’an Chia Ho-yen, just south of the Street of the Mule and Horse Market (Lo-ma-shih-chieh).
- The head investigation bureau is situated in the high court of justice.
- The investigation bureau of the different precincts are situated in the respective precinct courts.
the chief precinct court.
The chief precinct court at Peking will be opened on December 9, 1907, in consequence of a memorial to the Throne from the board of law, which memorial received imperial sanction. This court will try criminal and civil suits of every sort and will have jurisdiction over the Inner and the Outer Cities. Hereafter when the people have for settlement any matters that come under the jurisdiction [Page 181] of this court it shall be their duty to report the same to the head investigation bureau, situated in the high court of justice, for transmission to this court; as soon as their report is received the matter will receive speedy settlement. This court is established for the protection of the lives and property of the citizens, and if the litigants lay the facts before it the court will invariably decide the case with strict justice. But all litigious persons and barrators will be punished with the utmost severity. When anything is to be done by the court which is outside of its usual line of action as detailed below, public proclamation will duly be made in advance.
This court will have jurisdiction—
- In criminal cases involving penalty above the third degree of banishment (two or three years).
- In civil suits involving a sum in excess of 200 taels.
- In any case transmitted to it by a precinct investigation bureau through the chief investigating bureau.
- In cases involving destruction of property or means of livelihood.
the precinct courts of peking.
[From the Cheng Chih Kuan Pao, Dec. 11, 1907.]
The precinct courts of Peking are established in consequence of a memorial to the Throne from the board of law, which memorial received the imperial sanction.
These courts will be opened on December 9, 1907, for the trying of cases. Hereafter when the people have for settlement any matters coming under the jurisdiction of the courts herein mentioned it shall be their duty to report the same to the investigation bureau attached to each precinct court for transmission to the said court; as soon as the report is received the matter will receive speedy settlement. These courts are established for the protection of persons, lives, and property of the citizens, and if the litigants lay the facts before the courts they will invariably decide the cases with strict justice. But all litigious persons and barrators will be punished with the utmost severity. When anything is to be done by the courts which is outside of their usual line of action as detailed below public proclamation will duly be made.
These courts will have jurisdiction—
- In criminal cases calling only for a light beating.
- In civil cases involving any amount less than 200 taels.
- In cases involving rents or leases of buildings.
- In cases involving the boundaries of fields.
- In cases involving property rights—i. e., in cases involving pawning, borrowing, or storing.
- The breaking of labor contracts made for longer than a year.
- In cases involving the payment of bills at wine shops, hotels, etc., or concerning the baggage or guests at such places.
- In cases involving the stewardship of property.
- In industrial contracts involving forests, fields, houses, or boats.
- Trade-marks and patents.
- The judicial system of Peking was formerly composed of the following officers: The board of punishments. This board, acting in conjunction with the court of censors and the grand court of revision in the most serious cases, was the last court of appeal. Next in grade came the commander of the Peking gendarmerie, who, however, had no authority in cases involving any punishment more severe than the third degree of banishment, which called for two or three years. The prefect of the Imperial Prefecture of Peking had only unimportant judicial powers in the city itself. The two district magistrates came next. About three years ago the city was put temporarily under two police headquarters, two superior courts, and five lower courts. This system displaced the “Five City “organization, according to which the Tartar city, with its environs, was divided into five sections, each under a censor as police commissioner. The present judicial system acquires the judicial prerogatives of all the above offices.↩