Laws, crimes and justice in the treaty ports
On 10 September 1751 the Swedish botanist Pehr Osbeck visited the outskirts of Canton. On his way back into the city he was surrounded by a gang of robbers who demanded money from him. When they did not receive any money, they pelted Osbeck with large stones; it was very fortunate that he was not severely injured. One of the questions this paper discusses is what were the laws in China at that time governing crimes committed against Europeans in the eighteenth century. The corollary questions that must also be addressed are what were the laws regarding crimes committed by Europeans against Chinese, as in the case, for example, of the killing of the burglars Li Tingfu and Jian Ya’er in Macao in 1748 by the Portuguese Amaro and Antonio, and what was the attitude of the authorities to crimes committed by Europeans against other Europeans, often of a different nationality from themselves. Drawing upon historical records, legal statutes and provincial sub-statutes, and case histories, this paper analyses this complex topic. In addition to taking up crimes of violence, such as murder and manslaughter, this paper also draws on cases concerning smuggling, robbery and gambling. Comparison is further drawn between the legal treatment of crimes involving Chinese and Europeans, with cases involving Chinese and Koreans. Such a comparison of the legal interaction between China and its northern neighbour, regarded by the Yongzheng Emperor as a respectful vassal, and between China and the often disobedient Europeans along the southern Chinese coast, can provide us with a new perspective in comparative legal history.
- Law and Political Science
Cultural Encounters in the Treaty Ports