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‘Statement of His Excellency Governor Sir John Pope Hennessy, KCMG, on the Census Returns and the Progress of the Colony, 1881’

An increased Chinese community of great importance to the commercial interests of England 1881

‘Statement of His Excellency Governor Sir John Pope Hennessy, KCMG, on the Census Returns and the Progress of the Colony, 1881’

Quoted in David Faure, Society, pp.23-29

DOCUMENT I.e1: An increased Chinese community of great importance to the commercial interests of England 1881 (source: Encl. 2 in No.42, Legislative Council, Hong Kong, Statement of His Excellency Governor Sir John Pope Hennessy, K.C.M.G., on the Census Returns and the Progress of the Colony, House of Commons Papers 1881, Vol. LXV, serial no. 42, Public Record Office, London)

I am placing upon the table a return which has been prepared in the Survey Department in consequence of a minute of mine, in which I directed attention to the publication in the 'Daily Press' of the 11th May 1881, of a statement of transactions in landed property in Hong Kong, and called upon the proper officers to have that return checked and verified. Accordingly, that return, which, no doubt you have all seen, was transmitted to the Acting Surveyor General. He has now furnished us with an authentic statement of the transactions, from the Land Office books, that have taken place in the transfer and sale of property from the 1st of January last year to the 11th of May this year. To be brief, I think, on the whole, he corroborates what appeared in the 'Daily Press,' and the summary he gives at the end is to this effect. Total value of properties bought by Chinese from foreigners, 1,710,036 dollars; total value of properties bought by Chinese from the Government, 17,705 dollars; total value of properties bought by foreigners from foreigners, 216,750 dollars; total value of properties bought by foreigners from the Government, 5,060 dollars; total value of properties bought by foreigners from Chinese, 16,450 dollars.

Now, this large item of 1,710,000 dollars on the transfer of property almost entirely for commercial purposes, to the Chinese community since January last year, is undoubtedly an event of great importance. Is it speculative, or is it justified by the returns I am now laying on the table? In the first place what do we learn from the census returns of the Registrar General? We find that the population has risen from 139,144 in 1876 to 160,402 in 1881, showing, in four years and four months, an increase of 21,258, and of this increase the Chinese population account for 20,532. The Registrar General adds, that the European and American community is larger by 273; that the increase is among the British, Portuguese, Germans, and Italians, and is that of women and children; that the male adult population of Europeans and Americans has decreased. This fact is of interest, because, whilst taking the male adult British subjects from the United Kingdom there has been a decrease from 342 to 336, there has been an increase in the number of women and of boys and girls. So, too, with the Portuguese, there is a falling off from 418 adult males in 1876 to 384 at present, but an increase in the women and children. So, too, with the Germans; there is a falling off in the adult German population, and in the American population, and in the French population, but in each case there is an increase in the number of women and children. This fact, I say, is of interest, because the topical Colony where European children flourish cannot be very unhealthy. The vitality of a foreign child is a delicate test of climate, and I believe we can point to this particular item in the census returns affording some indication that Hong Kong is growing more healthy. And, now, proceeding to the question of the 20,000 additional Chinese, we have to consider this:- Has the increase in the various mercantile occupations of the Chinese been such as to justify the remarkable transfer of landed property I have referred to? The census returns furnish us with an opportunity of testing how far in the harbour of Victoria itself the means we have of commercial movement — that is, the transference of goods from steamer to steamer, from steamer to shore, and vice versa — how far that has been facilitated since the year 1876. From the returns, I find that the movement is conducted by steam launches, cargo boats, and sampans. The steam launches have increased from eight in 1876 to 37 in 1881, the cargo boats from 494 to 656, and the sampans from 1,357 to 2,088. So far for the machinery that we have in our harbour for conducting the commercial movement of the Colony, it has substantially increased. The returns I am laying before you are identical in form with the returns prepared in the time of Sir Arthur Kennedy, and probably his predecessors, and amongst these returns there is one which answers the question I have been asking, and that is a return of the occupations of the Chinese adult male inhabitants of the Colony. On analysing that return, I find that the following are the changes that have taken place since the last census with respect to Chinese merchants and other Chinese directly concerned in the trade and commercial of the Colony.

The Chinese trading hongs, that is, the Nampak hongs and other wealthy merchants who now send the manufactures of England into China, have increased form 215 to 395. Chinese traders have increased from 287 to 2,377; Chinese brokers, from 142 to 455. Taking the Chinese engaged in dealing in money; the shroffs have increased from 40 to 208; the teachers of shroffing have increased from 9 to 14; the bullion dealers, who do not appear in any former census, are now returned at 34; the money changes, 111 in 1876, still remain at 111, but in 1876 there were no Chinese bankers returned, and now we have in this census 55 Chinese bankers. The piece-goods dealers have increased from 78 in 1876 to 109, and cotton and yam dealers from 38 to 58. This is of interest, not merely to Manchester, Bradford, or Leeds; these Chinese merchants of Hong Kong are now facilitating an Indian trade with China, healthier, and with a safer future, than the trade in that drug which a few years ago was the only considerable commercial link between British India and China. Since 1877 the quantity of Bombay yarn received in Hong Kong has steadily risen from 21,000 bales to 61,000. The increase in the value of this trade from 1,706,913 dollars in 1877 to 5,251,246 dollars in 1880, has been coincident with an increase in our imports of raw cotton from Bengal and Rangoon from 33,000 bales in 1877 to 86,000 in 1880. Our opium trade shows no such tendency to increase. In 1880, we imported 87,747 chests, as against 88,428 in 1877. Mr. F.D. Sassoon tells me that the value of our total trade with India last year was 67,772,937 dollars, the value of the opium being 58,248,235 dollars. Though the trade in other goods than opium is but one-sixth of the total Indian trade, yet it is so rapidly developing that I look forward with confidence to the time when it will outstrip, and, perhaps, enable the Indian Government to curtail, the trade in opium. Tea merchants have increased from 26 to 51, rice dealers from 95 to 128, coal dealers from 16 to 20, fire-arms dealers from 15 to 20, timber dealers from 15 to 107, drapers from 101 to 156, and foreign goods dealers from 167 to 191. Compradores have increased from 77 to 95, ship compradores from 67 to 113, and ship charterers from 7 to 41. Looking to the increase I have pointed out in the ordinary machinery for commercial movement in the harbour, to this remarkable increase of the mercantile community, and to the well-known magnitude of the mercantile transactions of our Chinese merchants, it seems clear that this large expenditure since January 1880, of 1,710,000 dollars by Chinese for commercial property was a necessary expenditure.

There is another question that we may fairly ask. It has often been said, and there is hardly a directory or guide relating to Hong Kong in which you do not see it recorded, that Hong Kong has no local manufactures whatever. Is that true? Well, on turning to the census returns, I find many local Chinese manufacturers in this Colony. Bamboo workers have increased from 93 in 1876 to 121 in 1881; boat-builders from 48 to 110; carvers from 59 to 70; cigar makers from 21 to 30; engineers from 10 to 121; and gold beaters from 41 to 60. Glass manufacturers appears for the first time; there are now 16 in the Colony, and I believe at this moment the glass manufactory to the west of the town is capable of turning out such glass as some of the European storekeepers here are themselves prepared to sell; and when a service of glass may get injured, they can now send to our local glass manufactory and get tumblers to replace those broken in the set. I find image makers have increased from 10 to 15, lantern makers from 50 to 63, leather box makers from 39 to 53, lemonade and sodawater makers from 28 to 30. Watch manufacturers did not appear in the former census; they now number 13. Oar makers have increased from 30 to 43. Opium dealers have declined from 108 to 103, but that is not coincident with any decline in the revenue the Government of Hong Kong derives from the monopoly of prepared opium, which was 132,000 dollars in 1877, but was sold in 1879 for 205,000 dollars a year. Paper box makers have declined from 21 to 10, and rattan workers from 596 to 448. Of rifle makers we have five in the Colony. Sail and rope makers have increased from 100 to 141, and sandal-wood dealers and workers, from 74 to 76. Workers in sapanwood have declined from 96 to 20, and though there is apparently a decline in the number of sauce manufacturers from 49 to 41, there has been an increase in the quantity of sauce manufactured. I may mention that a short time before the late Mr. Kwok Acheong died, I went with him and two or three other Chinese gentlemen interested in the factory at Yau-ma-ti, to examine the factory, which was in a more or less rude state, the buildings not being then completed. I was glad to see what they were doing. In addition to making soy, they made ketchup for the European market, and they had also a manufactory for preserving fruits. Now, the ketchup is sent in hundreds of barrels every year direct from Hong Kong to a well-known house in London — that well-known provision merchant whose good things most of us have, from time to time, enjoyed. He sends out thousands of little bottles of his ketchup to Chinese as well as to European storekeepers here, so that, in short the ketchup we consume as English ketchup is manufactured by Chinese in Hong Kong, sent to England, and this famous provision merchant in England returns it to us for retail. I am bound to add, that the latest advices are the peculiar article which is produced by the Chinese manufacturer at Yau-ma-ti was regarded at the recent sales in London as the best in the market, and our little local manufactory is very successful. I find immediately following this we come to the soap manufacturers; they do not appear in the last census, and they are now only seven in number. There also appears, for the first time, one spectacle-maker. We have Chinese sugar refiners; they have declined from 25 to 15, and tanners from seven to one. Tobacco manufacturers have increased from 44 to 96. Tooth-powder makers appear also for the first time; they number 57. Umbrella-makers have increased from 97 to 169, vermilion manufacturers and dealers from 111 to 123, and weavers, who appear for the first time in our census, number six. It is, therefore, clear that we have in this Colony numerous local manufactures which have every prospect of extending.

But apart from the question of such manufacturers, there are in this Colony, as you all know, various industries employing Chinese artisans. Carpenters have increased from 2,510 to 2,923, blacksmiths from 690 to 708, pewter-smiths from 60 to 173, tinsmiths from 88 to 172, and braziers from 488 to 864. Masons show a falling off from 845 to 542. Rice-pounders have increased from 954 to 1,083 and in stone-cutters there is a large increase — from 449 to 1,439. The number of tailors now in the Colony, who work with sewing machines mostly, amounts to 1,857. It is an interesting fact, that for these tailors drill is imported into the Colony from England; they make it up with their sewing machines, and the made clothes are then exported to New Zealand and Australia. In that way Chinese cheap labour, even without leaving the atmosphere of China, is, to a certain extent, successfully competing with Australian and English manufacturers of clothes.

There are certain special occupation of the Chinese which are worth noting, as they indicate the prosperity of the natives. We have the birds' nest sellers, who have increased from 12 to 35, the sharks' fins dealers, from 9 to 15, beancurd sellers, from 93 to 107, jadestone dealers, from 8 to 18; but cinnamon dealers have fallen from eight to seven. Sessamum oil dealers appear for the first time, and number five, and ginseng dealers also appear for the first time, and are four in number. Joss-paper sellers have increased from 30 to 47, joss-house keepers, from 17 to 41, and chair-coolies, from 859 to 980.

In addition to those who are concerned in our commerce and trade, there is a certain amount of professional life amongst the Chinese, as shown by the census returns. We had in 1876, 198 Chinese doctors; now we have 333. Well, the question has often been asked, whether Chinese doctors do much good, but I think we may, perhaps, rely upon the good sense of those who employ them and have confidence in their empirical knowledge and skill. But even the European community and the Government of the Colony owe a debt of gratitude to some of those Chinese doctors. Hong Kong is peculiarly situated with respect to the possibility of an influx of small-pox. Perhaps no other port in the world in more liable to a visitation from that disease, and yet, though occasionally I get a report from the Harbour Master of a case or two that may be brought here, it does not spread in the Colony. How does that come to pass? I was talking not long since to the Health Officer, Dr. Adams, and he tells me he has to examine the Chinese who emigrate, and he finds nearly all the young Chinese have three or four vaccination marks, or inoculation marks, upon the arms. He says he was often puzzled to know how this vaccination came to be apparently so perfect among the Chinese. Well, the fact is, that for some years past the doctors of the Tung-wa Hospital have vaccinated extensively, and some of them have been employed as travelling vaccinators, who go about this Colony, and who, since 1878, visit the mainland and vaccinate all through the neighbouring province of China. Thousands upon thousands have been vaccinated by them. The returns are printed in our annual Blue Books. Thousand upon thousands have been vaccinated during the last four years. But when I saw the annual returns sent in by the Colonial Surgeon not many weeks ago, I appended the following minute to that document:- 'I cannot find any return showing the number of vaccinations by the Medical Officers of the Colony. Ascertain how many persons have been vaccinated every year for the last four years by the Colonial Surgeon, the Health Officer, the Superintendent of the Civil Hospital, and the Deputy Superintendent.' This appears to have been sent to the Colonial Surgeon for a report. The report of the Colonial Surgeon was very brief:- 'No return has ever been kept.' Whereupon, my honourable friend on my left (the Acting Colonial Secretary) writes to the Colonial Surgeon asking him if he could from his memory, and approximately furnish the number he has himself vaccinated, and get the same information from the other Medical Officers of the Government. The reply of the Colonial Surgeon is:- 'I have the honour to inform you that 10 persons were vaccinated in the hospital by the Superintendent. I have not been able to obtain any more information from the Superintendent. The Acting Health Officer vaccinated his own child twice without success. I have performed 32 vaccinations on children, 15 unsuccessfully, and about as many more on adults.' And then he proceeds to state that he distributed lymph, which I send to him (it comes to me every mail in my Despatch bag from Downing Street), amongst his professional brethren in the Colony and at Canton. He adds, that in future he will take care that a record of the vaccinations by the Government officers is kept. It may, of course, be said that the Colonial Surgeon and the other officers of the Government were aware of the fact that this semi Administrative duty — in fact, a duty of no slight importance to the Government and the Colony — was actually being performed for them by the directors of the Tung-wa Hospital, and, therefore, they did not think it necessary to interfere with the Chinese doctors, who were vaccinating thousands of people, and doing it so well, and who have protected the Colony so thoroughly. Passing from the doctors, we come to the druggists, who have also increased from 164 to 243. I find, for the first time in the professional life of the Chinese in this Colony, that we have three dentists. About 18 months ago I visited one, not professionally, but for the purpose of seeing the instruments he used, and I then found he had the same apparatus we find in all dentists' establishments. In fact, he did work for the first-rate American dentists we have here, being fully capable of making or repairing sets of teeth. He was a gentleman of intelligence, and impressed me, I must say, as favourably as a dentist could. I also find Chinese architects for the first time, five in number. For the first time, we also have in the list one geomancer. I have not seen that gentleman, but I find in the list perhaps an antidote to the geomancer; for the first time we see in this list a Chinese barrister-at-law. I think we may all congratulate ourselves on his appearing not only in the census returns as a barrister, but as being also a member, by the Queen's favour, of the Legislature of the Colony. I find also on this list three newspaper editors, but there were three in 1876. They are not exactly the same three, because one, a gentleman who was enumerated in 1876, was a friend of mine, the editor of the 'Chinese Mail,' Mr. Chun Ayin, and I believe that newspaper editor is now receiving a salary of 1,200 l. per annum as an officer of the Chinese Government in Cuba, where I understand he is the Consul General. I don't know whether I am right in classing them amongst the professional portion of the Chinese community, but I find we have 84 fortune-tellers in the Colony, instead of 46 in 1876. The schoolmasters have increased from 114 to 171, and students from 341 to 2,562. These students are not to be confounded with school-boys, who are dealt with in another part of the census. Most of these gentlemen who return themselves as students are, no doubt, young men, but some of them possibly are old men, who devote themselves to literary pursuits. Portrait painters have increased from 170 to 200, and photographers from 30 to 45. Story-tellers have decreased from five to one. Musicians, also, I am sorry to see, have fallen from 70 to 30. If it were not one of those statistical fallacies that sometimes occur, even in the best regulated Registrar General's Office, it would be a melancholy fact, that when our Chinese bankers and bullion dealers come upon the scene, the story-tellers and musicians seem to disappear. Perhaps great material prosperity is not without some drawbacks.

One the whole, it is manifest we have in this Colony an increased Chinese community of great importance to the commercial interests of England, and, therefore, we may at once answer the question as to this large dealing in land, and may admit it was a just and natural process, and that this transfer of property from European to Chinese was not of a merely speculative kind.

Now, does Hong Kong fulfil the object for which it was established? That I need hardly ask you, gentlemen, after the brief resume I have given you of our census returns. But it has sometimes been discussed what the object of this Colony is, and in my time I have heard it said that it is a military object, or a naval object, I have generally been of opinion myself it was commercial, but I find on referring to a Despatch of the Secretary of State to Sir John Davis, where this question was raised, that there it is briefly and clearly laid down for what object this Colony was really established, Sir John Davis had to forward to Her Majesty's Government a memorial from the foreign merchants complaining of the taxation of Hong Kong. They represented that Hong Kong had been established, as they thought, for military objects in China, and on that account they begged the Imperial Government would undertake to pay for the cost of the establishments, and that they themselves should be relieved from taxes. The Secretary of State who had to decide this question was a man of great ability. It was in the year 1846. He was then a young man, but he evidently gave due attention to the subject, and, having reviewed the whole question, he expresses his opinion that the occupation of Hong Kong was decided on solely and exclusively with a view to commercial interests; and, in a word, his Despatch said it was established in the interest of trade alone, and that the traders naturally should pay the expenses of the Colony. I find that this same Secretary of State had in a previous Despatch requested the Governor to have land sales in the town of Victoria at which none but Chinese could bid. Representations came from the Governor — either sir Henry Pottinger, or Sir John Davis — that there was a certain class of Chinese who would be peculiarly suitable for commercial operation, but that, owing to land jobbers, they could not compete at the land auctions in Hong Kong, and therefore the Secretary of State took the rather strong course of saying there should be some land sales at which none but Chinese could bid. Well, he incurred a little local criticism for doing that, but when this Despatch of his was published laying down the purely commercial objects of Hong Kong, and stating that the Colony should pay for itself, the newspapers then printed here commented on it in these terms: 'The answer of Mr. Gladstone is universally regarded by everyone with whom we have conversed since it was published as sealing the fate of Hong Kong. We do not believe it will be met by any violent recrimination or outcry, but the disgust it has excited is such as will not be speedily eradicated. What little trade we ever possessed here has been all but extinguished.' Well, a generation has passed since that criticism was published in the Colony, but I am bound to say, every year since then has justified Mr. Gladstone's policy; and, at this moment, we are in a Colony whose commercial prosperity is perhaps unrivalled. Who now will venture to say that he was not right to encourage the Chinese to buy land and settle in Hong Kong? Who now will differ with Mr. Gladstone as to the true character and object of this Colony?


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