HC Deb 26 April 1927 vol 205 cc662-5
42. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any further statement to make an the situation in China?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any further statement to make on the situation in China?


Military operations between the Northern and Southern forces are for the moment at a standstill. The northward advance of the Southern forces beyond the Yangtse has been checked, and they have been driven back over the Yangtse in the region of Nanking by the forces of Marshal Sun Chuan-fang, which have now re-appeared and taken part in the operations. The Northern troops have not, however, crossed the Yangtse. The Yangtse is, for the moment, the boundary betwen Northern and Southern territory, except at Hankow, where Southern troops still occupy country north of the river.

Meanwhile, a serious division has, appeared in the Nationalist ranks. General Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist Commander-in-Chief, has been dismissed from his post and has repudiated the authority of the extremist Hankow Government, which is under strong Communist influence. He has the support of the more moderate elements of the Kuomintang, some of whom have joined him at Nanking, where he is reported to be setting up a Government of his, own. The Hankow authorities have been placed in serious financial difficulties by the defection of Chiang Kai-shek, by the cutting of their communications with Shanghai and Canton and by the cessation of foreign business owing to disturbed conditions and the lack of security either for life or for property. They now control only a relatively small area in Central China around Hankow, and the civil and military authorities in the lower Yangtse area along the coast are, for the moment at any rate, on the side of Chiang Kai-shek. General Chiang Kai-shek has not yet made any military move against Hankow, but he has taken action against the extremists in the area under his control.

Anti-Communist raids have been carried out by the Nationalist forces at Shanghai, Soochow, Wusieh, Hangchow, Ningpo, Swatow and Canton.

Recent telegrams from the Treaty Ports show that the Yangtse valley still remains the chief area of disturbance and that elsewhere in both North and South China the situation is for the moment quiet.

In the Yangtse region a state of turmoil persists, and neither the life nor the property of foreigners is secure.

The British communities in the Upper Yangtse area have had to be evacuated. His Majesty's Consulates at Chengtu, Chungking, Ichang and Changsha have been closed and British gunboats withdrawn from those ports. The United States, Japanese and French communities have also been withdrawn.

At Hankow only about 200 British subjects and about 75 Americans, mostly men, still remain, and these are concentrated for safety either on board ship or in houses on the river front. H.M.S. "Carlisle" and "Vindictive," "Keppel," and "Wolsey" have arrived to reinforce the British naval forces already in the port. Most of the Japanese community have also been evacuated. The Japanese are holding their concession in force and have landed field guns. They are refusing to resume trade until security is reestablished. The situation is very tense and large numbers of better class Chinese are leaving the port.

At Hankow, Nanking and Chinkiang, His Majesty's Consuls have had to establish themselves on board ship, and at the two latter ports such British subjects as still remain are also living on board and are unable even to go ashore.

As regards foreign property, the position is no better. The few steamers that are running on the river are continually fired on, even if they are convoyed by men-of-war, and in spite of retaliation by the latter. Foreign property at Nanking has continued to be looted since the incident a month ago. The latest reports, however, show some improvement; the troops appear to be under better control, and looting has decreased; all Communists have left or have been arrested, and an anti-Communist proclamation has been posted in the name of Chiang Kai-shek. At Wuhu most foreign buildings have been occupied by Southern troops. At Chinkiang on 20th April, advance troops of the 1st Nationalist Army, on their arrival, commandeered all foreign buildings in the concession as well as the British Consulate for billets for the troops which were expected to arrive from Nanking. Later, however, as a result of the local military commanders' representations to General Chiang Kaishek, the latter ordered the troops not to enter the concession, and the advance troops all evacuated the Consulate and the concession.

Shanghai itself is quiet, although trade is stagnant. On the other hand, reports from Hongkong show that in South China British trade is again reviving. The demand for British goods is growing, and coasting trade is, on the whole, satisfactory.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his very interesting statement, will he answer one question? Is it our policy to maintain neutrality as between the two Governments—



Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

—as between the three Governments of Hankow, Nanking and Peking?


It has always been the policy of His Majesty's Government to maintain an attitude of neutrality.


In the course of his statement, the hon. Gentleman frequently used the term "extremists." Will he define to the House what he means by "extremists"?


Can the hon. Gentleman tell us at the present moment which of the various forces are being backed by the Front Opposition Bench and which by the back Opposition benches?


That is more a question for the Chinese than for us.


Is it the position of the present Government that, if they had all the Communists in this country in gaol, and the Labour party made an illegal organisation, they would consider that all their troubles were at an end?