Chinese Prisoners in the Nineteenth Century Philippines
Jely A. Galang, Ph.D.

Galang, Jely A. 2021. “Chinese Prisoners in the Nineteenth Century Philippines.” China and Asia 3: 274-307. 


This paper explores the lives of “undesirable” Chinese—vagrants, undocumented, idlers, beggars, drunkards and pickpockets—who were incarcerated in various prisons in the Philippines during the nineteenth century. Using criminal records from the National Archives of the Philippines, it examines the actors, institutions and processes involved in confining these criminals and interrogates how they lived within the confines of these penal institutions. It demonstrates that their lives were shaped by the policies imposed by the Spanish colonial state and prison administrators. There were instances, however, when some of these prisoners articulated their concerns towards prison authorities. Their verbal and physical responses illustrate how they utilized the resources inside the prisons to their advantage. On some occasions, the leaders of the Chinese community also represented to the authorities the concerns of these prisoners. Keywords: Chinese prisoners, Philippine history, crime, punishment, prison