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Why was the Hong Kong government so slow to abolish the mui tsai system - Research Paper Example

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The Mui Tsai system pertains to the system where young Chinese children, especially poor young girls, were sold into wealthier families for their services either as domestic servants or in the various existent brothels throughout traditional Chinese society…
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Why was the Hong Kong government so slow to abolish the mui tsai system
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"Why was the Hong Kong government so slow to abolish the mui tsai system"

Download file to see previous pages They were sold, under the pretext that they would eventually be freed when they were older through their eventual future marriage. Such arrangements, were generally conceived as being charitable, as such young girls/ women would be better taken care of, as mui tsai, rather than if they remained in their poor family settings. The above is rooted in the traditional Chinese ideal (preference) of a male heir, as opposed to female offspring, hence the accepted alternative option of selling these unwanted girls. Such transactions often lacked binding contracts, hence such arrangements were prone to various manipulations, the most common being sale of such young women into prostitution1. While the rest of the global society was enacting the – Abolishment of slave trade – this through the Slave Trade Act and the Slavery Abolition Act, the Hong Kong government was reluctant to follow suit pegged on the fact that it treated the transfer of girls/ young women as a family affair or matter, which was rooted in traditional custom. Additionally was Hong Kong’s existent government reluctance to offend its local elites, who virtually benefited from this system, and hence were unwilling to fully implement total abolition of the same. Hong Kong, was among the many entities that served as British protectorates or colonies, and hence British law, passed through parliament, necessitated the eventual enactment of the – Female Domestic Service Bill in the year 1923. Churchill was the then Secretary of State for the British colonies and his pledge was because of parliamentary inquiries that later necessitated the timely action of the British Colonial Office2. Various charges, such as slavery, child torture, and the buying and selling of children, by several MPs (Members of Parliament), thus necessitated the aforementioned pledge by Churchill. Such uproar was because of the British society’s unfamiliarity with the aforementioned phenomenon, with the British domestic sensibilities having outlawed slavery since the year 1933, in addition to having undergone various child labor reforms. At first, the Colonial Office officials put up a spirited defense of the practice, which they defended as being nothing illegal, with this Chinese traditional custom. Such officially muted apprehension, contrasted sharply with other existent opinions as exemplified by Clara Haslewood, a lead activist, whose book, Child Slavery in Hong Kong: The Mui Tsai System – explicitly characterized the phenomenon3. Further complicating the matter was Hong Kong government’s resistance towards all attempts at abolishing this trend-giving rise to two distinct groupings amongst the existent native populations. These two distinct parties were either for (supported) or against the practice, the controversy reaching its peak as a fully-fledged scandal both in Britain and in the then Hong Kong British colony. With the 1923 Female Domestic Service Bill in place – further sale, purchase, transfer and importation of mui tsais, was prohibited, with an additional demand for the requisite registration of all existent mui tsais, however being postponed. Unfortunately, this vital law was never observed with the seriousness that it necessitated4. However, with Britain becoming a signatory to the International Slavery Convention (1926) under the leadership of the League of Nations, this issue faced international scrutiny. It is hence from such strong international political pressure that Hong Kong’s government enacted the 1929 Female Domestic Service Ordinance. This required the registration of all existent mui tsais, prior to 31 May 1930. Henceforth, neither the sale nor registration was ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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