HC Deb 24 November 1926 vol 200 cc377-8
2. Captain FAIRFAX

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can say what the circumstances were in which the British ship "Sunning" was seized by Chinese pirates at Swatow; whether any Englishwoman was taken as a hostage; and, if so, what steps he has taken or will take in the matter to secure protection for British shipping and passengers?

The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Austen Chamberlain)

Steamship "Sunning," en route from Amoy to Hong Kong, was attacked at 4 p.m. on 15th November by pirates, who had got on board at Shanghai and Amoy disguised as passengers, their total number being 20 to 30. It appears that the guards were on duty but that the starboard grille was open and the ship's officers were not carrying their arms at the time of the attack. The pirates were in control of the ship until 1 a.m. on 16th November, when the officers, by a sudden attack, overpowered the pirate guard on the bridge and released the other officers and passengers. They then held the bridge deck against the attack of the pirates. The pirates then set fire to the ship. The captain let go an anchor and swung the ship so as to send the smoke and fire aft, whereupon some of the pirates abandoned the ship in two dinghies. His Majesty's Ship "Bluebell" arrived at 5.30 a.m. on 16th November and put an armed guard on board. 22 of the pirates were captured and four are known to have been killed. The chief engineer (British) of the "Sunning" was wounded and one male passenger is missing. There is no truth in the report that one or more European women were taken by the pirates as hostages. The question of measures to be taken in connection with these piracies is being carefully considered.


Ts it, not a fact that these incidents, Chinese attacks oil British shipping, have become increasingly frequent, and can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this was an attack by pirates and not any organised Chinese authority?


This is undoubtedly an act of piracy by pirates. It is not to be confused with any action by the Chinese Government. Unhappily, these acts of piracy have been frequent.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether these men are still in custody?


Oh, yes.

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