Lin Zexu was a Chinese government official in the late Qing Dynasty who destroyed opium being sold by English merchants:
Lin Zexu (1785-1850) was the Chinese Commissioner in Canton [Guangdong] whose actions precipitated the Opium Wars (1839- 1842). Although opium was used in China for centuries, it was not until the opening of the tea trade to Dutch and British merchants that China was able to import large quantities of the drug. By the early nineteenth century opium was the principal product that the English East India Company traded in China and opium addiction was becoming a widespread social problem. When the emperor’s own son died of an overdose, he decided to put an end to the trade. Lin Zexu was sent to Canton, the chief trading port of the East India Company, with instructions to negotiate an end to the importation of opium into China. The English merchants were uncooperative, so he seized their stores of opium. This led to immediate military action. The Chinese were decisively defeated and had to cede to a humiliating treaty that legalized the opium trade. As a result commissioner Lin was dismissed from office and sent into exile. Lin Zexu’s “Letter of Advice to Queen Victoria” was written before the outbreak of the Opium Wars. It was a remarkably frank document, especially given the usual highly stylized language of Chinese diplomacy. There remains some question whether Queen Victoria ever read the letter.
Here are some excerpts from the letter, written in 1839:
We find your country is sixty or seventy thousand li [three li make one mile, ordinarily] from China. Yet there are barbarian ships that strive to come here for trade for the purpose of making a great profit. The wealth of China is used to profit the barbarians. That is to say, the great profit made by barbarians is all taken from the rightful share of China. By what right do they then in return use the poisonous drug to injure the Chinese people? Even though the barbarians may not necessarily intend to do us harm, yet in coveting profit to an extreme, they have no regard for injuring others. Let us ask, where is your conscience? […] The goods from China carried away by your country not only supply your own consumption and use, but also can be divided up and sold to other countries, producing a triple profit. Even if you do not sell opium, you still have this threefold profit. How can you bear to go further, selling products injurious to others in order to fulfill your insatiable desire?
When the white man professes ignorance about why the Chinese hate him so, my mind can’t help flashing back to what I read, there in prison, about how the blood forebears of this same white man raped China at a time when China was trusting and helpless. Those original white “Christian traders” sent into china millions of pounds of opium. By 1839, so many of the Chinese were addicts that China’s desperate government destroyed twenty thousand chests of opium. The first Opium War was promptly declared by the white man. Imagine! Declaring war upon someone who objects to being narcotized! The Chinese were severely beaten with Chinese invented gunpowder. The Treaty of Nanking made China pay the British white man for the destroyed opium; forced open China’s major ports to British trade; forced China to abandon Hong Kong; fixed China’s import tariffs so low that cheap British articles soon flooded in, maiming China’s industrial development. After a second Opium War, the Tientsin Treaties legalized the ravaging opium trade, legalized a British- French-American control of China’s customs. China tried delaying that Treaty’s ratification; Peking [Beijing] was looted and burned.