Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China/Posts, Cables, and Telephones

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POSTS, CABLES, AND TELEPHONES.

THE POST OFFICE.

FOLLOWING closely upon the settlement of the British in Hongkong, a Post Office was established in the Colony by Sir Henry Pottinger, the British Plenipotentiary in China, for the purpose of receiving and delivering letters and letter packets free of charge. The building at that time was located on the hill just above the site now occupied by St. John's Cathedral. In order to convey their mails to Canton, sixty of the British mercantile houses of Hongkong paid a monthly subsidy of ;fi50 lo the s.s. Corsair, and in 1847 considerable indignation was caused by the Postmaster insisting upon the vessel carrying and delivering Post Office letters at a charge of 2d. each. The owner objected to being saddled with the responsibility of delivering the letters, but Ihe legal proceedings which ensued resulted in the demand of the Post- master being upheld by the Court. In the same year the owner was also fined for an infraction of the Post Office Regulations by carrying letters other than those consigned by the Postmaster-General. The British community, feeling themselves aggrieved, established the Hongkong and Canton Steam Packet Company, as a joint-stock enterprise, and it continued in ofjeration until 1854. The control of the Post Office passed from the Imperial Government into the hands of the Colonial Government on May I, i860. Two years and a half later (December 8, 1862) the use of postage stamps was introduced into the Colony, the stamps being of six denomi- nations — 2, 8, 12, 18, 24 and 48 cents, 24 cents being regarded as the equivalent of a shilling. Up to that time it had been the custom for traders and others with heavy correspondence to keep running accounts at the Post Office, and the discontinuance of this arrangement encountered strong but unavailing opposition. The year 1876 was remarkable for the entry of Hongkong into the Postal Union, on the payment of ;^3,i5o per annum, and for the reduction of the postal rates on letters to England, These rates were lowered to 16 cents a letter on April i, 1877, and at the same time the local rates were reduced by one-half. A third reduction was effected in 1879 — this time to 10 cents a letter to any country in the Postal Union. At the present time the charge, both for letters and post- cards, is 4 cents each, which, with the dollar standing at 2/-, is equal to about one penny. To Canton and Macao the fee for letters is only 2 cents, and lor postcards i cent, while to other places in China the charge is 4 cents for letters and i cent for postcards. The mails to England are sent by three different routes — via Canada, Suez, and Siberia. The time occupied in transit is about the same in each case, namely, from 27 to 29 days. The Post Office sustains a loss on all letters addressed to Europe, but this is covered by the profits earned on those sent shorter distances. For the con- veyance of letters marked " via Siberia " the Post Office has to pay about five times as much as it receives. The English mails via Suez are carried by the Peninsular and Oriental, the Messageries Maritimes, and the Norddeutscher Lloyd lines, each of which maintains a fortnightly service, the English and French boats arriving, as a rule, in one week, and the German boat in the next. A monthly mail via Canada by the Canadian Pacific Line gives a total of seven mails in and home every month. Owing to being the port of call for so many direct lines of steamships, Hongkong has become a vast distributing centre for mails destined for all paits of China, and the British Post Oflices at Shanghai and other Treaty Ports are all under the control of the Postmaster of Hongkong. These branch oflices were first opened during the governorship of Sir G. Bonhani (1848-54). The total number of mail bags and packets dealt with last year was 168,351, as com- pared with 160,921 in 1906, the arrivals and departures of steamers carrying mails totalling 27,920. Sometimes as many as a thousand bags of mails a day are despatched from the Colony. No revenue is derived from the warehousing of mails received by one steamer and despatched by another, and this, taken in conjunction with the fact that the Post Oflice in Hongkong has to con- tribute 20 per cent, of its receipts to the Imperial Exchequer as part of the military contribution for the defence of British inter- ests in China, constitutes a local grievance. The number of registered articles and parcels handled in Hongkong increased from 638,977 in 1905 to 770,820 in 1906, and to 856,415 in 1907. The total for the adminis- tration, including Shanghai and British Agencies in China was 979,506 in 1907, an increase of 52,619 over the previous year. All parcels despatched from Ihe Colony are trtated in the same way as registered articles, a receipt being given to the sender. In the case of parcels received for local distribution, .advices are sent to the addressees, who can obtain delivery upon application at the Post Office. Letters are delivered tiy Chinese postmen, but most people prefer to have their mail sorted into private boxes, for which a charge of Sio per annum is made. The boxes are fitted with combination locks on the Ameiican principle, the combination being known only to the holder and the postal officials. Despite the exceptional demands made upon it, the Post Office manages to pay its way. In 1905, it is true, there was a deficit of $170,611, but this was attributable to the payment in that ye.ar of arrears due to the Peninsular and Oriental Company under their mail contract. In 1906 there was a profit of $60,970, the receipts amounting to $420,454 as comp.ared with $414,838 in 1905, and the expenditure to $359,484 as against $585,449, excluding the payment of 20 per cent, as military contribution. Last year the profit amounted to $78,968, the receipts being $445,420 and the expenditure $366,452. Practically nine-lenths of the receipts are derived from the sale of postage stamps. Of nearly 7I millions issued at Hongkong and the various British Agencies in China during 1907 2,414,000 were for 4 cents each, 2,330,000 for 2 cents, and 1,108,000 for 10 cents. The stamps range in value from I cent to $10 and are of 16 denominations, a new 6 cent stamp having been introduced during 1907 for the convenience of those corresponding with non-British Union countries, the postage fee to which is 10 cents for a letter not exceeding i ounce in weight and 6 cents extra for each additional ounce. The sale of postage stamps, &c., at the British Post Offices in China during 1906 and 1907 yielded the following amounts:—

Shanghai ... «(>5,7i8-97 . ..$65,063-42 Amoy ,61014 . .. 9,960-49 Canton ,205-60 . .. 10,827-37 Chefoo ,610-87 . .. 1,609-71 Foochovv ... ,44229 . •• 4.783-67 Hankovv ,788-95 . ■ ■ .^.92503 Hoihow ,605-27 . .. 1,202-33 LiuKung Tail ,272-72 . •• 4,424-5«  Xingpo -82 . •• 52733 Svvatow ,660-96 . ■• 6,374-50 Tientsin ... ,77392 . .. 6,163-31 $106,189-51 $114,861-67

Imperial postal notes, as British postal orders are locally called, are issued and paid for sums of 20s., los. 6d , los., 5s., 2s. 6d., IS. 6d., IS., and 6d. Money orders are issued direct to nearly all the offices in the Postal Union, and even with the few exceptions the authorities can negotiate a " through order." All money orders from British possessions to the Far Kast north of Hongkong are sent through Hongkong, the Hongkong Post Office receiving a commission of I per cent, on through orders, and j per cent, on direct orders. The value of the orders issued at the Hongkong Post Office averages about $1,000 a day. Business at the Hongkong Post Office is obviously carried on under great disadvantages owing to the inadequate and ill-arranged premises in Queen's Road in which it has to be conducted. At the time of writing, a handsome and commodious new building, in the Renaissance style of architecture, is in course of construction on a corner site overlooking the harbour and abutting on Connaught, Pedder, and Des Voeux Roads, but it is not expected to be ready for occupation until 1911. There is no savings bank in connection with the Post Office, but this deficiency is made good by the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. Similarly, the telegraph cables and the local telephone service are provided by private enterprise. No internal telegraph communication exists in tiie Colony except for police, military, and maritime purposes.

MR. LEWIS AUDLEY MARSH JOHNSTON, the Postmaster-General of Hongkong, gained his chief experience of colonial administration in the Straits Settlements. Born on October 12, 1865, he joined the Civil Service in 1888, and, having sered for a time in the Colonial Secretary's office at Singapore and in the Resident Councillor's office at Penang, he was in October, i8<jo, attached to the General Post Office in Singapore. In 1897 he came to Hongkong on a special mission concerning postal matters, and on his return was appoin- ted Assistant Postmaster-General at Penang. In the following year he carried out the duties of Collector of Land Revenue and Officer in Charge of the Treasury at Malacca. He also acted for a time as Resident Coun- cillor and Deputy President of the Municipal Commission, Malacca. In 1900 he served temporarily as Postmaster-General in the Straits Selllements, and was appointed Post- master-General of Hongkong in 1903. During his tenure of this office he has acted, tem- porarily, as Colonial Treasurer, and by virtue of that fact has occupied a seat on the Executive and Legislative Councils. Mr. Johnston is a J. P. for County Down, Ireland, and is a member of the Sports Club and the Hongkong Club.

GREAT NORTHERN TELEGRAPH COMPANY, LTD. — This Company, which has its headquarters at Copenhagen, opened a branch in Ihe Colony in 1869 on completion of the c.ible from Slianghai to Hongkong. There are now lines of communication from Hong- kong to Europe, rid Sliangliai, Peking, Kiachta, and Irkutsk ; and Shanghai, Naga- saki, and Vladivostock. Shanghai is the head office of the Company in the East. The new premises in Hongkong were opened in 1898, and Mr. H. B. Krikke is in charge as the acting manager.

EASTERN EXTENSION TELEGRAPH COMPANY, LTD.— The Eastern Extension Tele- graph Company, Ltd., opened their branch in Hongkong on completion of the Singapore- Saigon -Hongkong cable in 1871. Cable communication was extended to Manila on May I, 1880, and to Canton, by the Imperial Chinese Telegraph Administration, in March, 1882. Now there are two cables to Singapore, the second touching at Labuan, and one to Slianghai, via Sliarp Peek and Koochow, and one to Macao, besides tliat already mentioned as going to Manila. The two Singapore cables form part of the main route to Europe. There is also connection with America, 7'id Manila, by means of the Commercial Pacific Company. The present offices in Connaught Road, Hongkong, have been occupied since 1898, and they are open day and night for tlie receipt and transmission of messages from and to all parts of the world. Mr. J. M. Beck is the superintendent. The tariffs are based on gold francs, the currency equivalents being revised every three months.

THE CHINESE TELEGRAPH COMPANY. The Cliinese Telegraph Company in Hongkong, which was founded by Mr. Ho A-mei, under the name of the Hongkong-Canton Wa Hop Telegraph Company, was established in the seventh year of the reign of the Emperor Kwang-Hsu, and was taken over two years later under an instrument of purchase by His Excellency Sheng Hsuan Hwai, Director-General of tlie Imperial Cliinese Telegraph ..dmiiiistratioii, Slianghai, by whom an ot'ticer was sent down to take cliarge. It was tlieii known as "a mercantile undertaking under the control of otlicials." The company's cables extend tlirougliout the Chinese Empire, and are land lines. The business at the Hongkong station is increasing year by year, and does not fall below a hundred thousand dollars annually. The

MR. TAOUTAI WEN HAO. (Manager.)

Hongkong office is under the management of Mr. Taoutai Wen Hao, of the second rank, a native of the Kwangtung District, who has been in charge for thirteen years, and has a record of fifteen years' service with the Imperial Government of China.

THE CHINA AND JAPAN TELEPHONE COMPANY.— This Company is affiliated with the Oriental Telephone and Electric Company of London, India, and the Straits Settlements, with which the Telephone Company of Egypt is also connected. Some two years ago the Company secured from the Government a twenty-five years' lease, and modern appliances were introduced immediately, such as underground wires, new switch-boards, instruments, &c. The Company now operates in Kowloon, as well as in Hongkong, and has altogether 1,000 stations, 900 exchange lines, and 1,700 miles of underground and 594 miles of overhead wires. The .igeiit for China is Mr. W. L. Carter, A.M.l.E.E. The eldest son of Mr. W. H. Carter, merchant, he was born in Shanghai in 1877. For some time he held a commission in the East Lancashire regiment, and obtained the South African war medal.