§ 20. Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether it is his intention to send a commission to Hong Kong to investigate the mui-tsai problem?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
Yes, Sir. After consultation with the Governors concerned, I have decided to appoint a commission to visit Hong Kong and Malaya, with the following terms of reference:To investigate the whole question of mui-tsai in Hong Kong and Malaya, and of any surviving practices in those territories of transferring women and children for valuable consideration, whether on marriage or adoption, or in any other circumstances, and to report to the Secretary of State on any legislative or other action which they may consider practicable and desirable in relation to these matters.The commission will consist of three persons: Sir Wilfrid Woods, late Financial Secretary in the Government of Ceylon, also will act as chairman; Miss Picton-Turbervill, lately a Member of this House; and Mr. C. A. Willis, late of the Sudan Civil Service, on the recommendation of the Anti-Slavery Society.
§ Mr. WHITE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, arising out of that reply, which I think will give great and general satisfaction as evidence of his intention to deal with this matter finally in order to remove this scandal, whether he will be prepared to lay a White Paper, and, if so, when? I am not sure whether the terms of reference include trading in male children, and will the commission also have power to deal, under the terms of reference, with the importation of mui-tsai from China into the Colonies?
§ Mr. THOMAS
I have endeavoured to draw the terms of reference so wide as to include everything. I believe that this is one of the matters which all parties in the House would desire to see dealt with and abolished, and I have appointed this commission in an endeavour to accomplish that.
§ Mr. W. ASTOR
Will the right hon. Gentleman consult the inhabitants of Hong Kong before making a change in their social system?
§ Mr. THOMAS
I presume the wishes of Hong Kong will be consulted, but if it means that the inhabitants of Hong Kong want to prolong this method, I am certainly against that suggestion.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman warmly for the excellent steps that he has taken in sending 415 out such a strong commission, may I ask whether, in view of the fact that mui-tsai concerns exclusively girls and is a very difficult question for men to investigate, he will consider sending two women as well as two men, one of whom should have had previous knowledge of China and its customs?
§ Mr. THOMAS
I am sure that the hon. Lady will realise that Miss Picton-Turbervill will be able to hold her own.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
Will the commission have full authority to investigate the matter not only in the Straits Settlements, which are a British Colony, but also in the Federated and Unfederated Malay States?