HC Deb 10 February 1926 vol 191 cc1008-12

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the prohibition against all British trade in South China, which is being enforced by an organisation of the nature of a strike committee, with headquarters in Canton, and of the consequent effect upon British trade and shipping in South China, and particularly upon the colony of Hong Kong; and if he can give the House any information as to the exact position of matters?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the action of a section of the Chinese people in boycotting British goods is having an adverse effect on the textile and other industries of this country, and whether he will take the necessary steps to bring this boycott to an end, and enable trade to be carried on in accordance with the treaties existing between China and ourselves?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give any information as to the progress of the negotiations, official or unofficial, relating to the Shameen shootings of June last, and whether he can make any statement as to the prospect of a settlement which will have the effect of lifting the Canton boycott?

16. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the present position of the boycott of British trade from the port of Hong Kong by the provincial authorities in Canton; and what steps are being taken to bring about a removal of this boycott?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the position of British commercial interests in China; and can he say what steps, if any, the Government intend to take in the matter with a view to alleviating the anxiety felt by British merchants in China?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any negotiations have taken place with the Government of Kwantung Province with a view to ending the anti-British boycott at Hong Kong; and, if so, with what result?


His Majesty's Government are giving careful and constant attention to the serious problems arising out of the anti-British strike and boycott in South China. At the beginning of the year it seemed likely that negotiations between Hong Kong and Canton would be successful. They have, unfortunately, broken down in a manner which must make it clear to the rest of China, and indeed to the whole world, that the Government of Canton are for the time being under influences so blindly anti-British that they are not open to reasonable settlement. The position in the rest of China is different. The policy of His Majesty's Government having been dictated by a sincere desire to promote friendly relations with the Chinese people and being inspired by sympathy with their legitimate aspirations, this attitude of patience and conciliation is bearing fruit in the slow but steady restoration of friendship and good will between the British and Chinese peoples. The trade conditions in the Yangtze Valley are now improving, and would be equally improving in North China if it were not for the civil war. There are many signs that the lawless actions directly attributable to Communist influence have disgusted all sections of Chinese people, and that they are far from approving the conduct of the extremist faction in Canton. This feeling will doubtless spread, unless intervention by a foreign Power should strengthen the extremists and unite China against the aggressor. Meanwhile, I must express my admiration for the courage and resource with which the Colony of Hong Kong and the British communities at Canton and Swatow have faced so serious a situation.

The whole question has recently been examined anew, and most carefully, by the Foreign Office, in conjunction with our representatives in China. I shall continue to give it my close attention.


May I ask my Right hon. Friend if the Government will consider the question of appointing a special representative to confer with the Government of Canton and the de facto Government of South China, with the object of impressing on them the necessity of putting an end to this serious situation?


In view of what I have already said about the anti-British influence at work in Canton, I do not consider that any good purpose would be served by sending a special Commissioner to that district, and I would add that I think the sending of a special Commissioner in such circumstances could only serve to undermine the authority of the representatives of this country in China, and that representation is in most competent hands.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Pekin Government is absolutely impotent to control Canton, and would not the best method of putting an end to this situation be by this country making direct representations to them?


Everyone who is cognisant at all with the affairs of China knows, as my hon. Friend knows, that one of the greatest difficulties of the situation is the weakness of the Central Government, but I do not think the solution he proposes of sending a special commissioner to Canton is likely to remedy the weakness of the Central Government or produce any good effect in Canton.


In view of the detaching of any legitimate grievance there may be from any anti-British sentiment would it not be desirable for the Government to consider paying compensation to the relatives of those killed in the Shanghai affair?


The offer of compensation has already been made and declined—made to the Hong Kong authorities, and declined.


What was the offer for the death of something like 50 people?


I cannot answer that without notice.


Is there any relaxation of the ostracism of British firms by other foreign firms who are afraid of losing their servants if they have intercourse with British firms?


I think I should like to have notice of that question.


Has it never dawned upon the Foreign Secretary that the troubles we are having in China are the result of the capitalists of this country going out to China to exploit the Chinese because of their cheap labour, and that the Chinese have now revolted against the conditions that we were imposing? And I would just like to ask another question of the Foreign Secretary: is he prepared to go to war to force the Chinese to buy British goods?


That is an argumentative question.


Can I have an answer to the last part of my question.