Abstract

It is easy to follow some of the popular misconceptions current in certain quarters of the western public and say or write something in the nature of the following:

In practice … the law is never invoked, and not being called upon to act, the officials take no steps, even when the facts are well known, the subject of gossip on all sides, and the offender and his would-be bride living at hand within easy reach. No one wants the law and its officers poking their noses into private business. … If manslaughter was done, a reluctant government would be forced to take action, but it is fairly plain that no one expects this to happen. Thus in civil disputes, and even in criminal cases where the motive is not robbery or banditry, the government remains passive and the law is allowed to slumber. The Chinese government, whatever the theory of the reformers, is in practice still actuated by the Taoist principle of “non-action,” preferring to leave the people to govern themselves which they do very well, and which is all they ask.

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