“Abolition of Concubinage Proposed: Resolution by Women’s Council”, was the headline in the South China Morning Post on March 23, 1954. “I’d like to vote with two hands instead of one,” one member of the Hongkong Council of Women said, as the resolution passed unanimously.

“In the interests of all Chinese women in the Colony this outdated custom must be abolished,” said Matilda Ng, chairwoman of the council, who added that the group had first called for abolition of concubinage in 1843.

The resurgence of concubine culture in Shenzhen

On May 28, 1957, the Post ran the headline “Women to Petition” along with the story that the council had drafted a petition seeking to abolish concubinage. “Even if it takes six months to obtain signatures, we will do it. We cannot fail this time,” said the council’s chairwoman, R.T. Eng.

The petition read: “[These] antiquated laws and customs [of the Qing dynasty] have been the cause of so many broken homes and much unhappiness in Chinese families. Their plight is so pitiful that we humbly beseech you to deal with this matter urgently.”

A supporting statement read: “Formerly the legal wife was consulted and it was [due to] her inability to have sons and with her permission that a man could take a concubine and the con­cubine was always subservient to the legal wife. To-day, the legal wife is no longer consulted and even though she has sons, a mistress is taken against her wishes and is very often kept behind her back.”

Why you should make a will to protect girlfriends and concubines

On October 7, 1962, a Postheadline read: “World’s last outpost crumbling: Concubines to Go? – Human Rights Council suggests practice ends on January 1, 1967”.

That date came and went and, on May 18, 1967, the Post reported: “Government intends to set a date beyond which no new concubin­age will be allowed in Hongkong”.

On May 23, 1970, the Post finally announced: “New Bill bans concubinage in Hongkong”.

The Marriage Reform Ordinance 1970 became law on October 7, 1971.