Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy

Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy came to the Governorship at a time of unusual peace for Hong Kong, the Opium Wars had come and gone and the Taiping Rebellion had been suppressed. China itself entered a period of relative stability which allowed Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy to concentrate on domestic and financial affairs rather than fire fighting diplomatic and military difficulties. He was less hands on than his predecessor Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell (whom he had previously followed in Gambia also) although he also sought to include Chinese in more governmental functions and also in the police force in place of Sikhs who had hitherto played such a dominant and somewhat controversial role.

Back in London the Colonial Office was still nervous at some of the more extreme Chinese cultural practices such as infanticide, branding, foot binding, child marriage and concubinage. Conscious of moral and Christian lobbying they sought to encourage local authorities to stamp these out. However, Governors like Arthur Kennedy hesitated in pushing too far too fast as like his predecessor he realised that these practices were deeply ingrained and offend too many sensibilities if they were treated too harshly too soon.

Kennedy fell out with the Colonial Office over Chinese Customs being allowed to search Hong Kong vessels in Chinese waters. This was proposed under the auspices of Sir Robert Hart working on behalf of the Chinese government. Many local Hong Kong businessmen and trading houses were outraged that they should be searched by a foreign government, but the British government held firm to the principle that a sovereign nation be allowed to govern its own customs collection and shipping in its own waters. To the Colonial Office, Kennedy was getting too close to the movers and shakers in Hong Kong and their confidence in him to represent Britain's views steadily decreased. He was replaced in 1877.

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by Stephen Luscombe