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Cuba—Chinese Coolies—Question

Volume 230: debated on Thursday 29 June 1876

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asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the statements made in a Report of the Commission sent by China to ascertain the condition of Chinese Coolies in Cuba are confirmed by Her Majesty's Consuls; and, whether, in that case, Her Majesty's Government intend to remonstrate with the Spanish Government on the cruelties brought to light in this Report?

in reply, said, that two years and a-half ago the Chinese Government suddenly put a stop to the exportation of Coolies to Cuba, owing to reports of great cruelties having been inflicted upon the Coolies, both before they left China, during their passage, and after they arrived in Cuba. Under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Minister in China suggested to the Chinese Government that the most desirable course would be to issue a Commission and send it to Cuba to inquire into the condition of the Coolies. That Commission was sent, and it was composed of three officers—one a Chinese, one an Englishman, and the other a Frenchman—and Her Majesty's Consul at Havana was directed to give the Commission all the assistance in his power. The Commission arrived in 1874, they spent some months in Cuba, and returned to China about this time last year. They subsequently drew up a Report, and presented it to the Chinese Government. As the Report was in Chinese Sir Thomas Wade had directed it to be translated, and it had not yet reached Her Majesty's Government officially. But privately a copy did reach the Foreign Office the day before yesterday. He had read a portion of it, and he must say that he never read a more painful report in his life; indeed, the word "painful" did not express at all the intensity of his feeling on the subject. He had received a despatch a short time ago from our Consul in Havana, and, though it did not come up to the statements in the Chinese report, in many particulars it corroborated the Chinese report. The hon. Member for Chelsea asked if the Government intended to remonstrate with the Spanish Government. The Government had not taken the matter into consideration, for this reason—that the Report of the Commission had not yet been received from Sir Thomas Wade, and that the question did not affect Her Majesty's Government, but the conduct of a European Power in regard to subjects belonging to an Eastern Potentate. It was therefore no part of the duty of the Government to remonstrate; but the subject had assumed such serious magnitude that the whole thing would be taken into consideration by Her Majesty's Government when they received the Report.