China Reign of Terror

Getting the knife into action. One stroke is enough.

The three pictures shown here are not truly representative of the pictures taken in China. The unshown photographs show the aftermath of execution, not the preliminaries. As I am reluctant to web the carts full of bodies or the heads suspended from telephone poles, here we have three images showing preliminaries. My decision to show only the less grusome shots also resulted in a bias in showing far fewer male victims than is representative. The state of the male victims are in general not web-worthy.

I believe these shots were taken in the mid to late 1920s. Western presence in China was still strong. Many powers were attempting to divide China. World War One was roughly half way through a period of almost continous chaos, death and upheval which started with the Opium Wars and lasted through the Cultural Revolution. While in the late 20th Century the west might try to smugly presume the supremacy of democratic government and capitalism, it might be well to remember the West's imperialist past. While Mao's idealistic striving for pure socialism killed millions in the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution famines, his generation's rejection of imperialism, capitalism and the west is not without cause and basis. One should not preach to the Chinese about human rights without remembering what imperialism did to their country.

The other pictures from the Galveston scrapbook not shown are labeled "The bread knife death," "After the execution. A pair who paid," "The stretching death," "After the clean up, Canton," "A ghastly joke, Peking," "A grusome example to stop thieving in China," "The penalty of stealing in China. It pays to be honest over there," "Their last lizzy ride," "A fair warning," "These chinks will rob no more," "Death of a thousand cuts, making the last cut before death," "Street cleaner's cart, Canton," "Easy to lose your head in China," and "The High Executioner, note his happy smile." It is overly simplistic to blame everything on US policy and the navy that implemented it. There were certainly worse offenders. Great Britain started the chaos with the opium wars, using military force to establish Britain's right to sell heroin in China. Still, the only people looking reasonably well fed and happy in these pictures are wearing western style military uniforms.

Chinese executing a woman.
Executing girl students.