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Colonial cleansing: Laws for a summer resort in China

Author(s): Carol G.S. Tan

Journal: International Review of Law
ISSN 2223-859X

Volume: 2012;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2012;
Original page

In the leased territory of Weihaiwei, China (1898–1930), public health and related laws played an important part in the local British government’s effort to create and maintain a summer resort for European visitors. These laws ensured that the territory was clean, restful and safe from dangers to health, such as noxious fumes, rabies, infectious diseases and tainted food. Buildings in the town areas had to meet minimum standards of construction, ventilation, and sanitation; and the layout of streets, the location of factory buildings and building plans were subject to control. Beyond the physical environment, further cultural transformations were effected as European habits and tastes came to determine conceptions of space, time and leisure. Through express provision or uneven enforcement, public health laws helped to heighten the differences between the town areas in which visitors were expected to stay and the less regulated rural areas of the territory. This too, served to enhance the reputation of Weihaiwei as a summer destination because it offered familiar and modern comforts as well as the opportunity to observe a more authentic China a short distance away. Given the degree of intrusion into the lives of the local population that was authorized by the public health laws, a study of these laws also provides clues as to the conflict or convergence between the interests of the foreign British administration and those of the Chinese residing in the territory.
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