§ 71. Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make on the closing of the ports of Canton and Whampoa?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The Customs incident at Canton arose from an attempt of the strike committee to extort more money from external trade. Hitherto they had seized goods and extorted money from cargo after its release from Customs examination and duty collection, but recently they began to seize goods before they had reached the Customs examination sheds. According 1026 to my information the Commissioner of Customs at Canton decided that in these circumstances his administration could not properly function, and, with the approval of the Inspector-General, he-stopped the functioning of the Customs so far as concerned loading and discharging of cargo. He did not close either the port or the Customs House. He took this action pending the surrender by the strikers of confiscated goods and an admission that in future all Customs formalities must be properly complied with. He did not make any condition regarding cessation of the boycott. The Press now report that the strikers have agreed to his conditions and that the incident is closed, but this lacks official confirmation.
The Chinese Maritime Customs, though organised and in part staffed by foreigners, is part of the central administration of China. The incident was therefore primarily a domestic concern and the foreign Powers, including Great Britain, were only indirectly interested. Owing to the boycott, no British ships were affected.