This book provides a comparative account of the abolition of concubinage in East Asia, offering a new perspective and revised analysis of the factors leading to - and the debates surrounding - the introduction of a new Marriage Reform Ordinance in Hong Kong in 1971. It uses this law as a platform to examine how the existence of concubinage - long preserved in the name of protecting Chinese traditions and customs - crucially influenced family law reforms, which were in response to a perceived need to create a 'modern' marriage system within Hong Kong's Chinese community after the Second World War. This was, by and large, the result of continued pressure from within Hong Kong and from Britain to bring Hong Kong's marriage system in line with international marriage treaties. It represented one of the last significant intrusions of colonial law into the private sphere of Hong Kong social life, eliminating Chinese customs which had been previously recognised by the colonial legal system's family law. This book contextualizes the Hong Kong situation by examining judicial cases interpreting Chinese customs and the Great Qing Code, offering a comprehensive understanding of the Hong Kong situation in relation to the status of concubines in Republican China and other East Asian jurisdictions. It will be of particular interest to teachers and students of law, as well as researchers in gender studies, post-colonialism, sociology and cultural studies.
Dr. Max Wai Lun Wong is an Assistant Professor at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Hong Kong. He holds a PhD from SOAS, University of London. He is an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in the UK. His research interests include Law and Public Administration, Chinese Customary Law and Practice in South East Asia, Law and Creative Industries and Traditional Cultural Expression and Law in South East Asia.
Chapter 1 introduces and explores academic discourse about marriage law reform in Hong Kong with particular reference to the abolition of concubinage. The discussion places the Hong Kong case within comparative law discourse surrounding family law reforms in colonial contexts, for example, Singapore. It also focuses on the determining factors which contributed to the end of the recognition of concubinage in law: the pressure of the UK government, several reports on marriage reforms proposed by the Hong Kong government, judicial interpretation of concubinage, and pressure from local social groups.
Chapter 2 discusses the legal provisions relating to the concubine as specified in Da Qing Lü Li, or the Great Qing Code - the legal code governed Qing imperial society and a source of law on concubinage in Hong Kong. Apart from the analysis of the written laws, this chapter also investigates the application of the relevant laws at all levels, such as the cases reported in Xinan Huilan, Boan Huibian and in memoirs written by retired local magistrates in Qing authorities.
Chapter 3 discusses the application of Da Qing Lü Li in the East Asian jurisdictions, and how judges helped to construct legal status for the concubine in the context of such laws from Mainland China. The focus is on the judicial response to the legal code and on the impact of the introduction of the modern marriage system in China and thelegal abolition of concubinage in the Civil Code of Republic of China in 1931.
Chapter 4 discusses the pressure from the UK government exerted on the Hong Kong government for the abolition of concubinage in the territory. Based on the available archives from the UK and Hong Kong, pressure from the UK government played a significant role in eradicating this customary practice based on non-discrimination between men and women.
Chapter 5 discusses the judicial response to the change in laws and customary practices of concubinage in Hong Kong and China. The biggest challenge was that the marriage reforms in China had brought about change to the marriage customs in the whole country. It also examines the social groups that called for marriage reform in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s. The ongoing petitions from the social groups addressed to the British and Hong Kong governments had generated strong social pressure for the abolition of concubinage. How the judiciary in Hong Kong reacted to such changes, and at the same time, applied the customs in Da Qing Lü Li, remained a monumental challenge. How did Western-trained judges in Hong Kong courts apply appropriate Chinese marriage customs in various courts? Did they invent or re-create the Chinese customs to preserve a system of concubinage in Hong Kong? This chapteer addresses these questions.
Chapter 6 discusses the aftermath of the marriage reform in Hong Kong in two key areas. First, the judicial responses to the legal changes are thoroughly investigated, in particular cases such as Leung Sai Lun and Others v Leung May Ling (1999) and Chan Chiu La and others v Yau Yee Ping (2000), which were decided by the Court of Final Appeal. In addition, this chapter examines the administrative responses to the new law after 1971, and the subsequent amendments to the marriage laws to paved the way for a monogamous and registered marriage system in Hong Kong.
Chapter 7 concludes the book by examining the historical and social development which led to the abolition of concubinage in 1971, even though concubinage had become illegal in the Republic of China in 1931 and People's Republic of China in 1950. The existence of this Chinese custom had been regarded as an obstacle to modernity, so the final eradication was unavoidable.