Law And Order In Shanghai In 19th And Early 20th Century

3547 words - 15 pages

Shanghai in the 19th and early 20th century was a unique city. The combination of its status as an entrepôt, the complexity of its society, and the very existence of the International and French concessions all contributed heavily to the difficulty of protecting law and order within the city. The focus here is on the political and civic; the French Concession is not a major object of concern, as it was subject to many of the same vicissitudes and issues as the International Settlement, and differs only slightly in the path it took to handle them. The factors that most heavily influenced the law and order of Shanghai, therefore, were extraterritoriality, the international settlement and its governing body, and the coexisting criminal justice systems.
The International Settlement was founded in 1863. It was the result of the joining of the American and British settlements. The International Settlement was governed by the Municipal Council, founded in 1854, and which was directly responsible for all affairs in the settlement. The document that this group's authority rested upon was called the Land Regulations. It had been drafted by the Shanghai Circuit Court Intendant and the British Consul. They stated that the International Settlement was to have "an executive committee or council." It had nine members, and they were elected by upper class land owning foreigner taxpayers. A provision was made for Chinese members after large-scale strikes and riots were held in the late 1920s, but it was some years before they found their way onto the council. The Council had an extremely wide power base; it could levy taxes, appoint personnel, administer public funds, construct municipal structures, including roads and sewers, enact building regulations, maintain the police force, and perform all the other functions of a municipal government. It was not directly under the authority of the Consular Body, but instead reported only to the taxpayers. The Consuls had some oversight however, as they set the election and meeting dates, in addition to a number of consuls who worked as a Court of Foreign Consuls, which existed only to judge and restrain the Municipal Council. They could not, however, reverse any action of the council that was done within what the Land Regulations stated. Because of this, and the concurrent independence of the Council, some referred to the International Settlement as the "nascent republic of Shanghai."
The Municipal Council was partly responsible for propelling Shanghai into its own industrial revolution. A symbolic example of this was their direct involvement with the change of the city from gas lamps to electric street lights, and at the same time, made the order for the entire International Settlement to be wired for electricity. Naturally, the rest of the city soon followed. The Municipal Council's allowance for the cheap supply of electricity was a key factor in a massive increase in cotton mills in the early 20th century. ...

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