HC Deb 06 November 1929 vol 231 cc1035-7

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if his attention has been drawn to the continued sale of mui tsai in Hong Kong; and if he can now make a statement with regard to the policy of the Government with regard to the mui tsai system?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies when the White Paper showing what action has been taken by the Government of Hong Kong to deal with the problem of mui tsai will be published; and what is the estimated number of Chinese mui tsai now resident in British territory?


The correspondence which my Noble Friend undertook to lay before Parliament is being published to-day as a Command Paper and will be obtainable in the Vote Office this evening. It will make clear to hon. Members the additional measures which are to be taken in hand by the Governor of Hong Kong to abolish the mui-tsai system. As regards the number of mui-tsai in the Colony it will be seen from the Governor's despatch of the 16th of May published in the Command Paper that it is not in his opinion possible to give an exact or even approximate figure, but he states that he has been very definitely assured by the leaders of the Chinese community that the number is not increasing but is diminishing. It is fair to assume that with the new measures to be introduced a figure will be forthcoming. The provision of wages is one of these measures.


Have we not previously had the assurance of the Governor of Hong Kong that he would put a stop to mui-tsai; and what guarantee have we that the measures at present proposed are likely to be more efficacious than those proposed in the past?


I would refer any right hon. and gallant Friend to the Command Paper which will be furnished this afternoon, and which will give him full particulars of everything that has been done in the past. As to the future, I would leave it to be answered for, but in my judgment this system ought to be abolished.


I am sorry to be persistent in this matter. Are the proposals now brought forward, the proposals of the Colonial Office here, or are they proposals of the Governor in Hong Kong who has failed in the past?


The proposals are from both sources, and I might say that the Governor was, yesterday, meeting the district watch committee in order to see how far it was possible to make regulations to carry them out.


Do these measures include the problem of fresh mui-tsai coming in from Canton; and is it proposed to make representations to the Cantonese authorities?


With regard to the regulations to carry out the business of abolishing the system, I think I must have notice.

Brigadier-General BROWN

Is it not a fact that in Canton they have stopped this system by means of registration of all these girls, and why not do the same in Hong Kong?

41. Mr. WHITE

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has any information concerning the existence of the mui-tsai system in any British dependency other than Hong Kong?


As far as I know, Malaya is the only other British dependency in which the employment of girls known as mui-tsai exists amongst the Chinese community. Their employment is regulated by law which amongst other things forbids their employment under the age of 10 years, requires the payment of wages, and leaves them free to leave their employers at will. My Noble Friend and I wish, however, to be thoroughly satisfied that the system that exists in Malaya involves nothing in the nature of slavery, and inquiries of the Governor and High Commissioner are being made.