decorated initial 'T'he principle of "extraterritoriality" was so important to the English because of numerous incidents in which Ch'ing justice was clearly not impartial. Such an incident was the fate of one of the gunners aboard the merchant ship Lady Hughes in 1784. An honorary salute fired as Chinese guests left the ship, having dined as the captain's guests, accidentally killed one sailor about a Chinese "chop boat" and mortally wounded another. In order to obtain the release of her supercargo in port, the captain of the merchant vessel handed over the young gunner who had failed to notice the Chinese vessel below his gunport. The most grievous charge he would have faced under British law would have been negligent homicide. However, Chinese justice at the Hoppo treated the young sailor as a murderer: he was summarily strangled. Chinese justice, as opposed to European law, operated, as Peter Ward Fay remarks, on two principles: "collective responsibility and a death for a death" (38).

On the morning of 6 December 1847 six young Englishmen disembarked upriver from Canton to hunt waterfowl. When by late afternoon they had not returned their boatmen suspected the worst when they heard shots and the clanging a village's militia bell. On 9 December, two of the youths were discovered, hacked to death by swords and horribly mutilated. The British commander, General d'Aguilar, bluffed the governor of Canton, Ch'i-ying, into believing that the British would retaliate with force unless the killers were found and punished. Not unware that Palmerston had forbidden any such military adventures, the governor capitulated, occupying the offending village with imperial troops and immediately beheading four of the supposed murderers while arresting fifteen others. Such incidents convinced the British that the only alternative to threatening Chinese officials with military force was to enshrine the principle of extraterritoriality in any future treaties.

Later History of Extraterritoriality: Russia and China in the 1950s

George P. Landow, Professor of English and the History of Art, Brown University

although Chinese historians and contemporary political figures look upon extraterritoriality as one of the great humiliations of China by Europeans, under Mao China voluntarily — if secretly — agreed to allow the USSR to claim extraterritoriality. As Andrew J. Nathan and Robert R. Ross explain, Mao was so convinced that the soviet model for industrializtion was the only one possbile and that China needed help from the USSR on almost any terms, that he agreed to numerous humiliating concessions:

Secret protocols to the [aid] treaty permitted Moscow, with no time limit, to transport troops over the railway and to import military equipment to Lushon without notifying the Chinese leaders. They also prohibited China from allowing foreign business activity in Xinjiane and Manchuria, while Soviet officials charged with a crime would be tried not by Chines courts but by Soviet officials in accordance with Soviet laws. Moscow had compelled Beijing to allow the Soviet Union to retain extraterritorial privileges in its sphere of influence om Chinese territory. Mao was so humiliated that only a handful of Chinese leaders were told of the sceret protocols. [38-39]


Fay, Peter Ward. The Opium War 1840-1842. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975.

Nathan, Andrew J., and Robert R. Ross. The Great Wall and the Empty Fortess: China's Search for Security. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.

Last modified 23 February 2007