§ Mr. CLYNES
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now able to make a statement on the signing of an agreement in China and to give the House any other information?
§ Sir CLEMENT KINLOCH-COOKE
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any official information corroborating the report that the Anglo-Chinese agreement relating to the British concession at Hankow has been signed by Mr. Eugene Chen, and whether he can give any further particulars to the House?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Austen Chamberlain)
I apologise to you, Sir, and to ad concerned for not being in my place when the right hon. Gentleman rose, but a material telegram only reached my hand after I had answered the questions which were put to me earlier this afternoon, and I was trying to get material for a full statement to the House. What I am going to say answers, I think, also a Private Notice question which I have had from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff. A telegram has been received from Mr. O'Malley dated 20th instant.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
He calls himself Mr. O'Malley, and I call him by the name he chooses. Now if I may get to business. A telegram has been received from Mr. O'Malley, dated the 20th instant, reporting the signature on the evening of the 19th of the agreement in regard to the Hankow concession. The agreement is in the following terms:
"The proper British authorities will summon the annual general meeting of ratepayers in accordance with the Land Regulations on 15th March. The British municipality will thereupon be dissolved and the administration of the Concession area will be formally handed over to the new Chinese municipality. Pending the handing over to the new Chinese municipality on 15th March, the policing of the Concession and the management of the public works and sanitation will be conducted by the Chinese authorities now in charge thereof.
"The Nationalist Government will, upon the dissolution of the British Council, forthwith set up a special Chinese municipality modelled on that of the special administrative district for the administration of the Concession area under regulations which will be communicated to His Britannic Majesty's Minister by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nationalist Government. These regulations will remain in force until such time as arrangements have been negotiated for the amalgamation of the five Hankow Concessions and former Concessions into one unified municipal district."
At the moment of signature certain declarations were made arising out of the negotiations. Mr. Chen gave the following letter to Mr. O'Malley:I have the honour to communicate to you the regulations which the Nationalist Government will promulgate for the administration of the British concession area at Hankow.I have not all the details of those regulations, but they are on the lines that I explained to the House the other day. Mr. O'Malley informed Mr. Chen:I have the honour to assure you that the British authorities concerned will do all that lies in their power to implement and ensure the successful operation of the agreement signed to-day relative to the British concession area at Hankow, and that as far as the British authorities are con- 1369 cerned, Chinese citizens will enjoy and be entitled to the same rights as British subjects in the said area.Mr. Chen replied:I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of to-day's date in which you assure me that the British authorities concerned will do all that lies in their power to implement and ensure the successful operation of the agreement signed to-day relative to the British concession area at Hankow and that as far as the British authorities are concerned Chinese citizens will enjoy and be entitled to the same rights as British subjects in the said area.I have the honour to assure you in return that the Chinese authorities for their part will likewise do their utmost to implement and ensure the successful operation of the agreement in question and that so far as they are concerned there will he no discrimination against British interests in the adminisstration of the new district.Mr. Chen further made the following declaration:Reports reaching the Nationalist Government from many quarters appear to make a re-statement of nationalist policy regarding concessions and international settlements necessary and timely in order to avoid misapprehension and prevent needless apprehension and fear.In the manifesto of 22nd January the Nationalist Government declared their intention and their immediate readiness to have all questions cutstanding between Nationalist China and the foreign Powers settled by negotiation and agreement. This implicitly applied and it was intended to apply to changes in the status of all concessions and all international settlements in China.This necessarily means that the policy of the Nationalist Government is not to use force or to countenance the use of force to effect changes in the status of any, or all, concessions and international settlements.The Nationalist Government have to lay it down that changes in the status of concessions and international settlements, wherever situated in China, are of such vital and national importance that no local or other Chinese authorities save and except the Nationalist Government can negotiate with the foreign Powers concerned in respect thereof.Mr. O'Malley took note of Mr. Chen's declaration:That in the manifesto of 22nd January the Nationalist Government declared their intention and their immediate readiness to have all questions outstanding between Nationalist. China and the foreign Powers settled by negotiation and agreement; that this implicitly applied and was intended to apply to the question of the status of British and other Concessions and International settlements in China, and that this necessarily means that the policy of the Nationalist Government is not to use 1370 force or to countenance the use of force to effect changes of status of any or all of the Concessions and International settlements.As regards the last paragraph of Mr. Chen's declaration, Mr. O'Malley made the following declaration:His Majesty's Government cannot bind themselves to refuse to enter into negotiations with Chinese officials in any part of China with regard to matters arising in areas where such officials are actually exercising de facto authority.I think, but I am not certain, that this is embodied in the declaration, or in the letter handed to Mr. Chen. Mr. Chen also announced that:The Nationalist Government took note of the statement by Sir Austen Chamberlain in the House of Commons on 10th February. The modification in the original plan for the concentration of British forces at Shanghai announced by him is regarded by the Nationalist Government as a concession, which now makes it possible to proceed to the conclusion and signing of an agreement relative to the British Concession area at Hankow. As, however, the landing at Shanghai of British troops even in reduced number and for the strictly limited purpose stated by the Secretary of State is without legal justification, the Nationalist Government have to protest against the landing and presence of such British troops in the International Settlement at Shanghai.Mr. Chen also made the following statement:The Nationalist Government declare that the arrangement made respecting the status of the area hitherto known as the British Concession at Hankow has been concluded by them with special reference to the facts of the new status quo in the new area and is not intended by them to serve as a precedent for the settlement of the future status of any British or other Concession elsewhere in China.I have instructed Mr. O'Malley—and I believe he has carried out my instructions—to make it clear to Mr. Chen in the course of these negotiations that His Majesty's Government must preserve their full right to dispose their troops as may be necessary for the protection of British lives in Shanghai.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I should like to express our thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for having, at such short notice, given such full information to the House, and to offer to the message a special word of welcome, particularly with regard to the allusion to settling outstanding points of difference by means of negotiation and agreement.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the women and children who are now in Shanghai can return to their homes at Hankow in safety, and can he say on whose protection they may rely in future for their safety?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Questions of that kind, as to when it is safe for British nationals, and particularly for British women, to return to the Concession must be left, I think, for the decision of those on the spot. But I should frankly deprecate undue haste in going back to conditions which may still be unsettled until time has been given for this arrangement to prove itself, and security is fairly established.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Before putting a question to the right hon. Gentleman, I should like to offer warm congratulations to him and to the Government upon the signature of this Agreement. I should like to ask him whether there are negotiations pending with the Peking Government, or with whoever is in authority in Shanghai, with respect to the Concessions there.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Negotiations are pending with the Peking Government. Sir Miles Lampson has made the same declaration to them as was made to Mr. Chen and at the same time, and we are ready and must reserve our right to negotiate with the de facto authorities in any part of China. As regards Shanghai, we cannot deal with that as we can deal with those rights which belong to us, and us alone. Shanghai is an international settlement, and its future can only be settled in agreement with the various nations which have an equal interest with us there.
§ Mr. LOOKER
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the position in regard to the Kiukiang Concession?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I thought I bad a telegram here dealing with the Kiukiang Concession. In regard to the Kiukiang Concession, the settlement is to follow the lines of the settlement. in regard to Hankow. When I got to the Table, I found that I had not the telegram in my hands which indicated that.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
Would it be appropriate for the Foreign Secretary to wire 1372 to Mr. O'Malley the congratulations of Parliament?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I have already expressed both to Mr. O'Malley and to Sir Miles Lampson appreciation of the ability with which they have conducted very difficult negotiations, and I have renewed to them both the assurance of my confidence and the confidence of His Majesty's Government in them.
§ Mr. THURTLE
Arising out of the right hen. Gentleman's reply, will His Majesty's Government consider the advisability, in view of the critical situation in Shanghai, of suggesting to the other foreign Governments that they should appoint persons with plenary powers to consider with the British representative there as to what steps should be taken in the case of certain emergencies arising?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I think the least said about eventualities, which I hope may not arise, the better.