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Minutes of the Sixth Session PDF Print E-mail
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Reports - Report of the International Opium Commission

12th FEBRUARY, 1909

THE PRESIDENT tool: his seat at io.3o a.m. Dr. Karl Bernauer presented a report on opium and its use in Austria-Hungary, where the problem is not acute, and he was followed by Mr. M. D. Rizaeff, who read a brief Memorandum (prepared by the Secretary to the Persian Delegation, Mr. B. A. Somekh) dealing with the opium question as it concerns Persia, and declared his willing,ness to supply anv further information in his power.

On behalf of the Russian delegation and himself, Signor FARAONE proposed an amendment to No. 5 of the Rules of Procedure,

"That after the words 'due cause shown' the following clause shall he added: 'and pending such presentation the work of the Commission shall continue.'"

This resolution was adopted bv the House, after which the discussion of the (Tort on China was declared to be in order.

Sir ALEXANDER HOSIE handed some questions (vide Vol. II: China Repot t) to the Chinese Delegates relative to their report, and spoke as follows:—

" There is no Member of this Commission more in sympathy than I am \\ ith the desire and aim of the Government of China to eradicate the cultivation of the poppy and the consumption of opium in China, for it has been my lot to reside and travel for years in the chief opium-producing centres of the Empire, in Szechuan, Ytinnan, and Kueichow, and to have had personal contact with the wretchedness, poverty, misery, and evil which the abuse of opium has brought to the people of these three Western provinces. I trust, therefore, that in putting some questions in regard to statements made in the Memorandum on Opium presented to this Commission by the Chinese Delegates, and in calling attention to points that appear to the British Delegation to require elucidation, I shall be exonerated from the charge of carping criticism, and that it will be understood that my sole object is to arrive at facts which are intended to assist—not to embarrass—China in carrying out the gigantic task which she has set herself to accomplish.

" Mr. T'ang, in presenting the Memorandum, disarmed serious criticism bv stating that it had been impossible to procure or present returns of the acreage under popp\ , or of the number of smokers. Acreage was called for by the Imperial Decree of June 26th, 1907, and by Regulations approved by Imperial Decree on the 23rd of May, 1908, the provincial authorities were called upon to direct the local authorities to make returns within six months of the area of land under poppy, for transmission to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Interior; and by the same regulations the provincial authorities were instructed to obtain from their subordinates the number of opium smokers, before the end of the year, for transmission to the same Ministries for purposes of record. The wording, of the Imperial Decree in regard to acreage is as follows:—` It is also commanded that an annual return of the land under opium cultivation be made, by way of verification and to meet the desire of the Court to relieve the people of this evil.' Such returns have not been laid before this Commission, and the British Delegation would ask the Chinese Delegates whether they arei in a position to state that Returns of Acreage and Smokers will be made for each province ancl duly published as official documents. Mr. rang might have informed the Commission wth equal truth that it was impossible to furnish an official reliable return of the production of opium in China ; but an attempt has been made to arrive at a rough estimate of production, and to draw a comparison between the output of 1908, and 1906, when the Imperial Decree was issued ; but this rough approximation of production loses much of its value as it is admitted in the Memorandum that, as regards the inland provinces—the greatest opium-producing districts in China, where the taxation is irregular ancl for the most part evaded, and where public or official returns are practically unknown—the estimate is merely patchwork. Attempts have also been made to arrive at the number of smokers, and their percentages of the population and of adult males; but, based as they are on figures admittedly unreliable, the result is necessarily of inconsiderable value.

"Before, however, coming to production and consumption, 1 should like to draw the attention of the Commission to pages 5 and 6 of the Chinese Memorandum, where a table is given of the distribution of foreign opium, from which it is deduced that the only provinces showing an increase in the consumption of foreign opium in 1908, as compared with 1906, are Kiangsi and Anhui. This, I think, is somewhat misleading, for as soon as opium has paid duty and likin at any port in China, and the balls have been labelled and certificated by the Customs, they may be carried by Chinese into any province in the Empire without again coming under the cognisance of the Imperial Maritime Customs; and to say, for example, that the net import of 16,996 piculs of foreign opium into the ports of Shanghai, Chinkiang, and Nanking was all consumed in the province of Kiangsu is altogether misleading. Certificated opium finds its way from one province to another by inland channels uncontrolled by the Imperial Maritime Customs.

"Another point to which I would call attention is the opium revenue table on page io of the Memorandum. What is the total revenue derived from Native opium ? The duty and likin (or rather a tax collected in lieu of transit dues) given in the table represent merely the share of the taxation on native opium which falls to the Imperial Maritime Customs. The latter, in addition, collected and handed over to the Native Collectorates in 1906:—

Haikuan Tls. 369,997 as Kaochfian and K'up'ing „ 641,864 „ T'ung-shui

and in 1907

K'up'ing „ 827,232 as T'ung-shui.

"These are paltry sums compared with the actual sums collected, for we know that 51,8/7 piculs of native opium arrived at Ichang from Western China in 19o8, and we know that this opium was liable, in addition to other provincial taxation, before or on arrival at Ichang to a consolidated provincial duty of 115 K'up'ing taels a picul, or a total of K'up'ing Taels 5,96o,m5, a sum in excess of the total revenue derived from foreign opium during the year. It may here be noted that the native opium which found its way down river from Western China to Ichang by this one route exceeded the net import of all foreign opium into China in 19o8 by 3,430 piculs. This tax of 115 K'up'ing taels is not levied on opium produced and consumed in the provinces of Szechuan, Ytinnan, and Kueichow or in Manchuria, where lighter taxation prevails, and I ask the Chinese Delegation if they are able to furnish the Commission with the total amount of the taxation of native opium in any recent year.

"I come now to the question of opium production in China, a subject which has occupied many minds for many years. At page 15 of the Memorandum presented by the Chinese Delegation, some estimates for recent years are given—by Mr. Morse for i9o5, Mr. Leech for 1907, the Board of Revenue for 1906, Customs Returns for r906, and Customs Returns for 1908. I eliminate from these Mr. Leech's estimate which, with two exceptions, is the same as Mr. Morse's whereon it was based, and the estimate of the Board of Revenue, which is admitted to be altogether unsatisfactory and untrustworthy, and has been chal-lenged in an outspoken memorial by the Tartar General stationed at Ning-hsia in the province of Kansu; and I ask the Chinese Delegation when the Customs estimate for 1906 was compiled. Was it compiled in 1907, or at the end of 19o8 along with the estimate for that year? There is, I think, internal evidence to show that the latter was the case, and that both estimates were compiled at one and the same time. For the moment one instance will suffice. At page 18 the province of Anhui is dealt with. The Commissioner of Customs at Wuhu, the only port open to foreign trade in that province, estimates the annual production of Anhui to be not less than 3,000 piculs at the present time, and he states that there has been a reduction in the area under poppy cultivation in some districts of from 5o to So per cent. The compilers of the Memorandum then say that the estimate is consequently doubled for 1906. Such reasoning to my mind is perfectly illogical, for we have been informed that the area or acreage under poppy is an unknown quantity, and a conclusion based on the alleged reduction of an unknown area is of very little value. In other cases the estimate of production in 1908 is deduced by cutting down the estimated production of 1906 by certain percentages. For example, it is stated that the production of Yi.innan has been reduced since i906 by over 5o per cent., and that, as Kueichow is under the same Viceroyalty, it is reduced by one-third. Again, although there is no connection between Ytinnan and the provinces of Szechuan, Shensi and Kansu, it is argued that because Yiinnan production has been curtailed by one-half the output of the other three provinces has each been reduced by one-third. It is really unnecessary to take up the time of this Commission with multiplying such cases, but it is well to point out that from deductions such as these the conclusion is drawn that there has been a curtailment of production in China to the extent of 37 per cent, in 19o8 as compared with 1906. It may be so, and I sincerely hope it is; but I am afraid that the figures on which such a conclusion is based would not satisfy any Western Statistical Society.

" In the leaflet of telegraphic reports from the various provinces, which forms a supple-ment to the Memorandum, it is stated that the cultivation of the poppy has been entirely suppressed in Fengtien, the southern province of Manchuria. Since when ? Opium in Manchuria is a summer crop and it was cultivated in several places, especially near the Mongolian border, in 19°8, so that it will be time enough to speak of the poppy having been suppressed in Fengtien when the time for sowing the crop comes round in 1909. Again, we are told in the leaflet that the cultivation of the poppy has been reduced by 6o per cent, in the province of Shantung, and that it will be totally suppressed by the end of t9o9. If you will turn to page 97 you will find a telegraphic report by the Governor of Shantung to His Excellency' Tuan Fang-, in which it is stated that the production of opium in Shantung- in 1908 was ( i ) for home consumption 95,679 catties and (ii) for export 52,557 catties—a total of 148,236 catties or 1,482 piculs, whereas if you will refer to the table of production on page 15 you will find that the Customs estimate of the production of the province for 19°8 was 12,000 piculs, a somewhat extraordinary discrepancy ; and it may be assumed that the measures necessary to abolish productions of 1,482 and 12,000 piculs would differ very materially. I do not wish to question the bond fides of the Governor of Shantung. He merely reports what was communicated to him by the Native Opium Consolidated Tax Bureau, and he gives the Statistics supplied by it. It is simply an instance illustrating the difficulties with which the High Provincial Authorities in China have to contend, and the laxity that prevails in accepting statements as facts. I might quote several other provinces through which I travelled in 1908, but I think I have said enough to show that the figures for production furnished by the Memoran--dum are based on by no means accurate or reliable data. The burden of most of these recent telegraphic reports is that suppression will be effected in 19°9; but Cheldang and Shensi state that they still require three years, and the Viceroy of Szechuan, who has to deal with the greatest opium-producing province in the Empire, reports that cultivation has ceased within over forty districts of the province and that the balance—some eighty more—will suppress cultivation within the prescribed limit.

" So much for production. I come now to the question of consumption. Opium smokers have not yet been registered throughout the Empire and their number is unknown ; but an attempt has been made by the Chinese Delegation to arrive at a census of consumers by taking an estimated production of native opium, adding the foreign import, dividing smokers into two classes—light and heavy—and apportioning half of the estimated total amount of the drug between the two classes, each light smoker being given a daily allowance of one mace, and a heavier smoker 4 mace. This is a novel division of classes; but I much prefer the result of careful enquiries made in many provinces of China, which is that the average daily consumption of a smoker is 2 mace of prepared opium, and taking what appears to me to be the excessive estimate of 613,917 piculs of raw opium consumed in 19°6, and allowing each smoker his 2 mace, the number of smokers becomes not 13,455,699 but 1°,627,573 or about 2.65 of an uncounted population assumed to number 400,o0o,000. I do not admit, however, that the production of native opium in China in 19°6 was 584,800 piculs as stated : the estimate is based on altogether insufficient data, and it might have been possible for the Chinese Delegates, knowing as the Chinese Government should do the provin-cial and Imperial revenue derived from native opium, and the rate of taxation, to arrive at some reliable approximation to the actual production, especially in view of the fact that Mr. T'ang stated, when presenting- the Memorandum,that about 25 per cent of the total production in China escaped taxation. As matters stand the Customs estimates for 19°6 and 1908 are so dependent one upon another that an under or over estimate in one year entirely vitiates the other. The percentages of smokers to the whole and to the adult population are undoubtedly important factors in this investigation, and there seems no good reason for deviating from the usual estimate of five persons forming a family. This would give some 16°,0°0,000 adults to the Empire, and, assuming-, for the sake of arg-ument that there were 13,455,699 smokers (as stated in the Memorandum) in China in 19°6, the percentage of smokers to adults would be 8.4, and considerably less than 16 to adult males, for, while women are frequently alluded to as smokers in the reports contained in the Memorandum (and to my knowledge they are numerous in the Western provinces), they have not been taken into account when the per-centage was struck. If, as I believe, my figures are as reliable, if not more so, than those given in the Memorandum the percentage of smokers to adults would be 6.64, and, taking women into account, under 13 per cent, in the case of adult males. This, of course, is assum-ing that the Customs estimate of 19°6 is correct. In the same way the Customs estimate of production for 19°8, with light and heavy classed smokers, but with five persons to the family (a rnore reasonable allowance than 8), would give the percentag-e of smokers to population as 2. , of smokers to adults 5.4, and in all probability less than io per cent, to adult males. If 2 mace per day be taken as the average allowance of a smoker the percentages would be less ; but actual percentages will remain unknown quantities until China is able to produce reliable information regarding production, or better still the numbers of smokers registered under the regulations. Whether such information, if furnished, will be convincing, or whether differences of opinion as to production and consumption will remain, is immaterial to—and should not be allowed to obscure—the main issue, that opium in China is a g-reat evil, and that the removal of the temptation is the only cure.

" I repeat that I have made these remarks in no carping spirit, They have been offered to show that we are still much in the darlc regarding the actual production, consumption and reduction of opium in China, and also in the hope that criticism and analysis at this stage may do something to obviate the difficulty and possible controversy which may occur if toward's the end of 1910 the Chinese Government are not in a position to demonstrate, with some approach to precision, the actual progress that has been effected. Meanwhile, in spite of the absence of any well organised uniform scheme for accomplishing the task which China has set before her, there can be no doubt that fair progress has been made in several provinces. Much still remains to be done; but the Chinese Government, whose sincerity is beyond question, have the sympathy of the British Delegation, and I trust of this Commission, in their efforts to eradicate the opium evil from the Empire."

Mr. R. LAIDLAW,    having withdrawn the question put by him at the previous sitting to the Chinese delegation, the Chair announced with regret the absence through indisposition of Mr. T'ang Kuo-an, and surmised that the Chinese delegates might in con-sequence require time to answer any questions put to them.

Continuing the discussion, the Right I-Ion. Sir (_'. CLEMENTI SmiTH rose to cornment on a statement made in the Chinese report as to the clandestine traffic in opium between Hongkong and China. He stated that the amount of smuggling that took place had for years been exag-gerated, and he denied that it existed to such an extent as might be inferred from the report under discussion. The movement of opium was very strictly controlled bv the Hongkong Government, and illicit traffic on a large scale was impossible.

After Monsieur RATARD and Monsieur Brenier of the French Delegation had put questions (vide Vol. II: China Report) to the Chinese Representative, further discussion of the Chinese Report was postponed.

H.E. TSUNEJIRO MIYAOKA informed Mr. R. Laidlaw, M.P., that replies to the questions handed to his Delegation during the previous session were in course of preparation ; and Mr. de Jongh also intimated that he had telegraphed to Netherlands-India for certain information requested by Mr. Laidlaw.

Monsieur MIYAOKA then moved the following resolution :—

"That questions in respect of reports presented by the Delegations shall be submitted in writing, and that copies thereof shall be opportunely supplied to all the Delegations by the Secretary."

Monsieur RATARD proposed to add the words "and answers" after the vvord " questions." Sir C. Clementi Smith asked that the resolution might be interpreted liberally, otherwise the scope of debate would be inconveniently limited. The resolution as amended was then accepted by the House.

In reply to several enquiries, the Secretary explained that the Minutes would later be amplified and printed so as to form a fuller report of the proceedings of the Commission.

Dr. HAMILTON WRIGHT asked the British Delegation for information concerning opium and laws controllinp-, same in New Zealand and British South Africa (for reply vide Vol. Il : British Report).

Dr. BERNAUER suggested that information should be laid before the Commission as to the use of opiurri in the different foreign Concessions and Settlements in China.

Adopting a suggestion of Dr. Tenney, Monsieur RATARD moved the following resolution :—

" That the President be requested to apply on behalf of the Commission to the Senior Consul at Shanghai for information and data concerning opium in the International Settlement "

This was agreed to by the Commission.

Dr. HAMILTON WRIGHT suggested the appointment of Committees (under Art. 7 of the Rules of Procedure) for dealing with specific portions of the various Reports with a view to the preparation of International Summaries. This suggestion was afterwards put by him into the form of resolutions, as follows :—

" That Committees, each consisting of three Delegates, be appointed to co-ordinate and report for the further consideration of the Commission as a. whole-

1.—On Trade Statistics.
2.—On the question of anti-opium remedies as dealt with in the different reports.
3.—On the question of opium and its derivatives from a medical point of view. 4.—On the question of the cultivation of poppy and production of crude opium. 5.—On the Returns of Revenue as given in the different reports."

Of these resolutions Nos. r, 4 and 5 were accepted, and Nos. 2 and 3 negatived after discussion.

The Commission adjourned at r 2.3o p.m. until the r sth February, at ro a.m.