HC Deb 11 April 1927 vol 205 cc5-9
60. Sir F. NELSON

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can give the House any information about the recent entry of Chinese troops into the Legation Quarter of Peking?

65. Mr. MOSLEY

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether admission into the Legation Quarters in Peking of the troops of Marshal Chang Tso-lin, which raided the Russian Embassy, was authorised by the British diplomatic representative in that city in common with the representatives of the other Powers?

66. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Minister at Peking has associated himself with the diplomatic representatives of the other Powers in Peking in signing the authorisation to enter the Legation Quarter for the troops of Marshal Chang Tso-lin which raided buildings there adjoining the Russian Embassy and belonging to the Russian Government and arrested the occupants; and if he will state what the circumstances were?

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

I will answer these questions together. The following preliminary report of the circumstances has been received from His Majesty's Minister, who states that the Chinese authorities have promised to communicate full particulars of the results to the Senior Minister, who is the representative of the Netherlands (M. Oudendijk). He will circulate them to all the Protocol Powers as soon as possible.

The chief of the Metropolitan Police called on the Senior Minister on 6th April, with a letter in duplicate calling attention to the subversive activities of Russians in the Legation Quarter, and requesting authority to search certain specified Russian property, namely the Dalbank, the Chinese Eastern Railway building not actually inside the Russian Legation itself, and the building belonging to the Russian Indemnity Commission. The original of this letter was duly countersigned by the Senior Minister, authorising ingress for the Metropolitan Police, and handed back to the authorities. The Senior Minister had previously consulted the representatives of the other Protocol Powers, who decided that the hospitality of the Quarter must not be used against the local Government, and agreed that provided the local authorities came furnished with the proper warrant, the Legation Quarter Police should be instructed under a specific order from the Senior Minister to allow them to search any suspected Russian private property specifically named in the warrant.

The search began at 11 a.m. and continued throughout the day. It was effected by the Metropolitan Police, some gendarmes and many plain clothes detectives. An attempt was made by the Russians to burn some documents, but this was frustrated. The senior Minister has informed His Majesty's Minister that among the captures was a list of names of 4,000 agents in Peking ready to that among the captures was a list of stir up trouble and commit acts of violence at a given moment. Other seizures comprised one machine-gun, 30 rifles and a quantity of ammunition, together with a number of flags with inflammatory slogans which were to be used for demonstrations.

Official seals were captured of the "Anti-British Committee," whose special function appears to be agitation against Great Britain. The seals of similar committees for agitation against Japan and France were also seized. 22 Russians were arrested, and between 40 and 50 Chinese, for whom the authorities had long been searching, including the recognised leader of the Communist party of North China, who had taken refuge with the Russians.

The Russian Embassy itself, which is shut off by a high wall, was strictly respected, though the raiding party exceeded their authority by overflowing into the barracks of the Imperial Russian Legation Guard, which are separated from the Embassy proper and lie west of the wall. Though it can be argued that the barracks have no claim to diplomatic immunity, seeing that Russia has no longer any right to the guard, the Protocol Powers, through the senior Minister, thought it well to address a protest to the Government against the action of the police in thus exceeding the specific authority given by the senior Minister.

The following communiqué was issued on the night of 6th April by the Chinese Government: The Chinese Government, having been informed of the presence in the Dalbank and the office of the Chinese Eastern Railway of arms and ammunition, and knowing that these places have been centres of Communist agitators, decided to conduct a search. The search has been made on the basis that these places are not covered by diplomatic immunities and that the Soviet Government has renounced the privileges provided for in the Protocol of 1901, as well as the rights of extra-territoriality. Therefore the Embassy itself, only has the privilege of inviolability. The search was effected at 11.0 this morning by Chinese police after the Chinese authorities, on the presentation of a regular warrant from the judicial authorities, had received from the competent authorities of the Legation Quarter the necessary authorisation for the execution of the warrant. I have since received information that, after taking cognisance of the letter from the Metropolitan Police, at a meeting of the Protocol Powers on the 9th instant, it was agreed that the Senior Minister should at once reply in a letter which, after acknowledging the receipt, proceeds as follows: I am desired by my colleagues to inform you that they expect all persons who were arrested by the Chinese police in the course of that search will receive a fair trial before the competent judicial authority. I shall be happy to receive an assurance from you to that effect.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

What guarantee has the right hon. Gentleman that the Chinese arrested in this Legation property will be properly treated and tried?


It is easy to ask for guarantees in the present position of China, but it is less easy to state what those guarantees should be.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why guarantees were not asked before permission was given for the raid to be made?


May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is not quite satisfied in all the circumstances that the ingress of the Chinese police was abundantly justified?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

And their conduct.


Is there any truth in the report that some of the Chinese arrested have already been executed?


As far as I know, there is no truth in that report. With regard to the question put by the hon. Member for Stroud (Sir F. Nelson), I have given the House all the information I have in my possession at the present time. It appears to me quite clear that the Protocol Powers were right in saying that the protection of the Legation quarter should not be given to conspirators against the local Government.


Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the practicability of the Protocol Powers consenting that each should give similar authority to each other to make similar searches in Soviet institutions in their respective countries where they may expect to find the same proceedings going on as in the Soviet Embassy in Peking?