§ 68. Mr. TREVELYAN
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, prior to the shooting in Shanghai, there was an industrial dispute during which a Chinaman was killed in a foreign mill; whether the crowd, which was fired upon by the police, was demonstrating in connection with this dispute; and whether or not it was armed?
For some months before the recent riot, industrial unrest had been continuous in the Japanese mills at Shanghai. There had also been disturbances in the Japanese mills at Tsingtao, which is under Chinese administration, where rioters were fired upon and killed by the Chinese police. The unrest at Shanghai involved the killing of a Japanese mill-manager and, later, of a Chinese employé. This last incident, which occurred on the 15th May, led to more violent agitation, in which the students joined to support the employés. In doing so, they came into collision with the police on the 30th May. The crowd was unarmed, but was very large, and was threatening the lives of the police. The crowd attempted to rush the police station, which was full of arms, in order to release the arrested students. Warning was given before firing.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Is it not a fact that the cause of all this trouble is in conse- 28 quence of the beastly low wages paid to the employés and the employment of young children?
§ Mr. LOOKER
Before the hon. Gentleman answers that question, will he say if there is any control at present over the wages paid by the foreign residents at Hong Kong and Shanghai?
The British Government and the British community have done all they can in regard to improving the conditions of labour within the International Settlement. Outside that Settlement the British Government or community have no control whatever—
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
Is it not a fact that, however poor the wages are, they are better within the International Settlement than elsewhere in China, and does not M. Zinovieff take credit for the troubles?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
May I ask whether there is any evidence that there was any attack by the Chinese on the police station with any arms whatsoever, and is it not a fact that American and British missionaries have stated that the people who were killed and wounded were shot in the back, and, therefore, could not have been shot while trying to storm a police station?
I do not agree it is true that those who were shot were shot in the back. While it is quite true to say they were unarmed, it is also a fact that it was a very large and murderous crowd—
—that the crowd tried to rush the police station, which was full of arms, and that if they had obtained those arms, there is no doubt greater bloodshed would have taken place.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
May I ask whether, in order to preserve peace out there, the Government will organise battalions of shareholders to go and do their own dirty work?
69. Mr. FOOT MITCHELL
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether our policy with respect to the trouble in China is adopted in concert with other Powers interested; and if there are any points of difference, will he state their nature?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. No points of difference have arisen, and I take this opportunity of expressing on behalf of His Majesty's Government their appreciation of the firm and tactful manner in which the situation is being handled by the senior member of the Diplomatic Representatives concerned at Pekin, the Italian Minister.
§ Mr. J. JONES
Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to say that British battleships shall not be used to back up international sweaters in China?
§ Mr. LOOKER
Is it not in accordance with British interests, and with the policy of His Majesty's Government, to assist as far as possible the natural aspirations of the Chinese people?
The attitude of His Majesty's Government is one of respect for China, Chinese culture and Chinese civilisation, literature and art. The British Government desire the prosperity and the peaceful condition of China, and, where possible and desired, the British Government will lend China all their support to that end.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Arising out of the hon. Gentleman's statement, that the British Government have done everything possible to better the conditions in the Shanghai mills under British jurisdiction, will he tell us what steps he has taken to enforce the conclusions come to by the Shanghai Municipal Committee's Report, and why it was that a majority could not be got to attend?
Yes. I will give a reply which may not be quite accurate, but which is thereabouts correct. The British community and the British Consul-General working together in sympathy have tried all they can to initiate a bye- 30 law to be enacted by the Shanghai Municipal Authority against child labour. The British Government at home have supported that action, and two ladies, experts in factory welfare work, one of them Miss Harrison, of the Young Women's Christian Association, and the other Dame Adelaide Anderson, who are well known in labour circles, have been members of the Shanghai Commission to deal with child labour and night hours of employment. This Commission was set up by the Municipal Council of the Settlement and issued a Report a year ago. A regulation was introduced by the Shanghai Municipal Authority, who adopted the Report, but there was not a sufficient quorum to pass it at a specially convened meeting of ratepayers. That took place in April, 1925. It was put down again for the 2nd June this year, and it would have come up for discussion, and possibly would have been passed. It has the good will of the British Government and the support of our Consul-General at Shanghai and the British community, but these unfortunate circumstances arose and a quorum did not attend.
§ Mr. LOOKER
Is it not a fact that in the British cotton mills of Shanghai regulations exist prohibiting the employment of boys under 10, and girls under 12?
That is, I think, the proposal. There are only eight Shanghai mills out of 66 cotton mills which are under British ownership.
§ 71. Mr. LAWSON
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the total number of killed and wounded as a result of shooting since the present industrial troubles began in Shanghai; and whether he can give the nationalities of the same?
The casualties at Shanghai so far officially reported are 21 Chinese killed and 65 wounded, and one foreigner wounded, who is believed to be of American nationality.
§ Captain GEE
Is it not a fact that many of these questions are put at the instigation of Moscow, to cause more trouble in China?
§ Mr. LAWSON
May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that an insinuation was made respecting myself in regard to a question I have on the Paper, to the effect that this question was put as the result of Bolshevist influence from Moscow upon myself? May I ask you if that is an insinuation that ought to be made by a Member of this House, and should it not be withdrawn?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I at once rose to say that the statement was a very improper interjection to make, but I did not think it was worth while to take any further notice.
§ Captain GEE
On a point of Order. My question, with all respect to you, Sir, was dealing with some of the supplementary questions.
§ 72. Mr. LOOKER
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British mills there are in Shanghai; if any regulations are in force in such mills governing the age at which young persons may be employed therein; how many Chinese, Japanese, or other non-British mills there are in Shanghai; and if any regulations are in force in such mills governing the age at which young persons are employed?
According to a Report published last July by the Municipal Council of the International Settlement at Shanghai, the number of British textile mills is 14. No municipal regulations are in force governing the age at which young persons may be employed. But steps have been taken by the managers of the British mills to give effect to the recommendation of the Child Labour Commission appointed by the Municipal Council, that the employment of children under the age of 10 years should be prohibited. In the area covered by the Foreign Settlement and the two Chinese districts of Chapei and Pootung (the only areas of the Chinese-controlled city of Shanghai regarding which figures are available), there are 273 mills and factories, of which 25 are British, 186 Chinese and 31 Japanese-owned. No municipal regulations are in force governing the age at which young persons may be employed therein.
§ Mr. J. JONES
Is it the case that in any British factory in China, children are working under the age of eight?
Well, Sir, broadly speaking, the managers of the British factories in China desire that all the conditions under which their people in the international area are working shall be a model and an example to the rest of China.
§ Mr. DALTON
That is not an answer to the question, Mr. Speaker. It is not what they desire, but what they do.
§ 74. Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
asked Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to state the total number of Chinese killed by the British forces in the recent disturbances; whether all or any of these were armed; and whether he will give instructions that in future unarmed demonstrators shall not be fired on with ball cartridge?
No Chinese have been killed by British forces in the recent disturbances in China. The Chinese casualties inflicted by the police force of the international municipality of Shanghai have been reported as 21 killed and 65 wounded. The mobs coining into conflict with the police are reported to have been unarmed. As regards the last part of the question, His Majesty's Government are not in a position to issue instructions to an international municipality.
Captain ARTHUR EVANS
Will the hon. Gentleman state whether, as a matter of principle, it is not in the interests of the preservation of life of the British and British interests and property abroad, that these discretionary powers should be left to the officer on the spot?
§ Mr. HARRIS
What is the composition of this police force and its nationality? Who controls it, and to whom are the members responsible?
78. Captain BENN
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can now make a statement showing the hours of labour, age of employment, wages paid and other particulars relating to labour conditions in the mills in China?
§ 77. Mr. MacKENZIE LIVINGSTONE
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can state the number of Chinese employed in the foreign concession in Shanghai, the current rate of wages, and the average number of hours worked per week, and what are the regulations as to age, etc., affecting juvenile employment?
Such information as I have regarding the number of Chinese employed in the foreign settlement in Shanghai is contained in an appendix to the Report of the Child Labour Commission published by the Municipal Council. A copy of this Report has been placed in the Library of the House. A statement showing the average hours of labour and wages of artisans and labourers of various classes in Shanghai is given in Appendix V of the Department of Overseas Trade Report on the Commercial, Industrial and Economic Situation of China in June, 1924, published by His Majesty's Stationery Office. Further information regarding labour conditions in China is to be found in the Chapter on Labour in the China Year Book, for which the agents in London are Messrs. Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Company, Limited. No regulations are in force governing the age of employment.
Would it be true to say that quite young children are employed all day for seven days a week merely to earn their keep?
May I then put it to the hon. Gentleman that it is not necessary to go further to discover the cause of the present trouble?
§ Sir W. DAVISON
However deplorable the conditions may be, as a matter of fact, are they not better in the foreign settlements than in the mills of the Chinese themselves; and is it not a further fact that these, conditions are being used merely as a pretext?
The foreign settlements, and especially those in which British capital is employed, are used as a model for bringing the conditions of labour in China on to a proper basis. Conditions in these international settlements are certainly better than those in the Chinese 34 areas over which the foreign settlements have no control at all, and cannot, indeed, have any control.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Are not the people responsible for the conditions which the hon. Gentleman has just condemned the real Bolshevists?
§ Mr. LOOKER
Is it not desirable in the interests of peace in China and the lives of all the foreigners living there, as well as of the Chinese themselves, that nothing should be done in this House to add to the excitement by any questions here?
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give any information as to the nature and extent of the disturbances at Hankow and the loss of life ensuing; whether there is any trouble in Pekin, and whether, besides moving troops and ships of war, His Majesty's Government have begun to make any proposals for removing the root causes of the widespread ill will manifested in China to certain foreign nationalities?
On the 11th June there was a riot at Hankow by a large and violent mob which, I regret to say, killed one Japanese subject and badly wounded two. The riot culminated in a determined attack on the British concession. Firing only took place in the last resort, after the use of the fire hose had failed; it resulted in 16 casualties, of which two were fatal. His Majesty's Consul reports that the firing was necessary and inevitable. Had the Chinese authorities co-operated promptly with the defence force, this deplorable loss of life would have been avoided; when they eventually did so, the situation became easier. All the foreign naval forces present co-operated in the defence of the British, French and ex-Russian concessions at Hankow. The situation there still gives cause for anxiety, but H.M.S. "Hollyhock" was reported yesterday to be due shortly from Nanking, and will later be replaced by H.M.S. "Despatch."
I have no official information as to the strikes in foreign factories at Hankow which, according to newspaper reports, have been occurring for some time past, and which apparently were the immediate occasion of the disturbance; but 35 it is clear that the Hankow disturbances are similar in nature to those at Shanghai; that is to say, they are a symptom of a deep and widespread unrest exploited by interested parties to stir up feeling against those foreign Powers which, precisely because they are the Powers with the largest interests in China, are deeply concerned to cooperate with her in the task of progress and reform.
There have been, and there continue to be, demonstrations by students at Pekin, but they are not considered to be dangerous.
In the opinion of His Majesty's Government, the surest remedy for the ill will towards foreign nationalities now being manifested in China will lie in an attempt on the part of the Treaty Powers to give practical effect to the spirit of the decisions reached at the Washington Conference, a spirit which contemplated the co-operation of China and the Powers in measures beneficial to China as a whole. His Majesty's Government, now and for some time past, have been considering the best means of overcoming the difficulties that militate against the success of any such attempt. Those difficulties—and this may be said without any desire to apportion responsibility—arise largely from the absence of effective governmental authority in China. His Majesty's Government trust that the approaching Tariff Conference will afford an opportunity for removing such obstacles, for dissipating the present atmosphere of unhappy distrust, and for inaugurating a new era of fruitful cooperation between China and the Powers.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one of the causes why many of us on this side of the House take such a deep interest in this question is because many of us, including myself, have been exploited? I was when I was 16 years of age, and some of my friends have been too. That is the reason why we are taking a keen interest in this Shanghai business.
We all take a keen interest in it, on all sides of the House. And we all desire peace and prosperity in China, and His Majesty's Government will be very pleased to do all they can to assist China.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
May I ask whether the Government are satisfied that, in co-operation with the other Allies, they are taking every step possible to prevent this disturbance changing its features into a really big international trouble in the Far East?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I can certainly assure the House that that is the case. We are watching the situation most anxiously in this country, and, as I believe was announced to the House, the Treaty Powers represented at Pekin have sent a Commission of Inquiry to Shanghai to investigate and to report with all speed. The Chinese Government have sent two high officials to conduct a similar inquiry, and I have every reason to believe that those two inquiries will work together in perfect harmony and with a desire to attain the same end, that is, peace in China, and enable us to take the steps which have been foreshadowed of trying to come to an arrangement on the internal tariffs which may help in the consolidation of internal Chinese Government. The absence of these tariffs, whatever other causes there may be, is one of the root causes of the present trouble—at any rate a root cause why it is so difficult to grapple, as a central Government would be able to grapple, with troubles of this kind.
Mr. Mac DONALD
May we be assured that the Government's position is not merely to protect life but also to remove the very serious problems in China?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We do not lose sight of that. One of the difficulties is that, especially at a time like this, it is our duty to protect so far as we are able the lives of European people not only in the port towns but inland in China.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is extremely difficult, but I can assure the House that we are doing everything we can to secure the end which we all desire.