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Judicial CP - July 1905

Hansard (House of Lords), London, 20 July 1905

The Flogging of Chinamen.

Lord COLERIDGE rose "To ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, having regard to his statement in this House on May 16th, 1905, his attention has been called to the evidence of Mr. Stewart, late compound manager of the Croesus Mine, at the inquest in Johannesburg on the death of Mr. A. Bradley, as reported in the Johannesburg Star of June 23rd, 1905, in which he is reported to have said, 'where he had considered the Chinamen wrong he had in many cases flogged them; it was against the law to flog them, but he had done so'; and whether any action has been taken in the matter, and, if not, whether His Majesty's Government propose to take any action, and, if not, why not."

cuttingThe noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, on May 16th this year, I asked the noble Duke for information with regard to the suspicions I entertained as to flogging taking place in the Chinese compounds in South Africa. The noble Duke referred me to a statement made by Lord Milner. He also said it was illegal -- which I knew -- for any flogging to take place in compounds; that all floggings had to be imposed by a magistrate and sanctioned by a Court, and that as it was illegal it was impossible. At the time the noble Duke spoke there appeared in a well-known newspaper at the Cape -- the Licensed Victuallers' Gazette, dated April 29th -- a long account of a visit to the compounds on the Rand, and I will give the noble Duke a few extracts from this account --

"In one compound that I visited there were, say, 2,500 coolies, of whom 60 per cent have had a 'licking' since their arrival."

Continuing, the writer says --

"Let us take one typical morning's work. Twenty coolies are lined up outside the compound manager's office. They are marched in one by one by Chinese policemen and charged. The charge may be anything -- from malingering to opium-smoking, or failing to report after a shift. The sentence usually varies from five to fifty strokes. These are administered variously. On one compound that I visited the punishment is carried out most expeditiously. 'Ten,' says the compound manager, speaking in Chinese, and the unhappy coolie walks to another part of the same room between two or three Chinese policemen to take his gruel. The coolie lowers his pantaloons, falls flat on the boards (face downwards) and 'prepares to receive the enemy.' One policeman keeps his head in position, another his feet. The Lord High Executioner armed with a whip -- a piece of leather three inches wide attached to a wooden handle about three feet long -- then metes out the punishment. After the second stroke the coolie will probably groan and wail, but immediately after the last he is brought to his feet, and with a coup de derriere from a policeman's No. 9 boot he is sent about his business."

He went to another compound and described what took place there. In one case he says --

"the sentence was two whippings of fifty lashes each."

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (The Duke of MARLBOROUGH): Will the noble and learned Lord give me the name of his informant?

Lord COLERIDGE: The account is anonymous. The writer continues --

"These whippings were administered in public. And in this case the victim did really and truly weep. The number of whippings varies according to the temperament of the compound managers. Some believe implicitly in their police and headmen; they accept their stories, and act accordingly. Others listen carefully to both sides and (provided they know the language well enough) give the accused coolies the fairest play. On some mines the strap is not used. Instead, a cane is laid across the shoulders at the rate of about three cuts per second; but of course the number of strokes is much greater than when the leather lash is applied."

That account is anonymous, and I am not saying it is correct. I am saying that at the time the noble Duke spoke there was this paper circulated in the colony with this account in it. What I wish to ask the noble Duke is whether any heed was taken of that account, and any attempt made to find out who wrote it; whether it was true; or whether there was any foundation for it. At this time the Government were asserting that no such thing took place, and down to July 13th the Colonial Secretary had stated in the House of Commons that he had no information of any kind on the subject.


I wish to ask why these things escape the attention of His Majesty's Government and why it is left to private Members in one or the other House of Parliament to draw attention to these scandals. The Government have every opportunity of obtaining this information and finding out for themselves. They were asked whether these things were going on, and assured us they were not. Why, I ask, is it left to private Members to ascertain and, if I may say so, expose the illegalities now admitted to be practised in the compounds?


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