HC Deb 14 November 1928 vol 222 cc857-9

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any cases of piracy have occurred in the China seas during the Recess; and what is the present position?

9 and 26. Mr. LOOKER

asked (1) the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Chinese authorities at Canton or elsewhere are taking, or proposing to Lake, any steps to stamp out piracy on the China coast; and whether any representations have been made by His Majesty's Government to any Chinese authorities as regards measures being taken by such authorities against the pirates, of whose identity they have full knowledge;

(2) the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in view of the increasing piratical attacks on British shipping in Far Eastern waters, he is taking, or proposing to take, any special measures for the protection of the British interests involved, either by the provision of additional gunboats or otherwise?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can add anything to the Press reports respecting the recurrence of attacks by pirates on British ships in Chinese waters; whether he is taking steps to ensure the carrying of adequate armed guards in British ships trading in Chinese waters; whether adequate compensation is paid in eases where British officers lose their lives or are seriously maimed as a result of these attacks; and whether His Majesty's Government, in conjunction with the British authorities in China, both naval and military, are taking effective steps to protect British ships and British officers from these atrocities?


On the 26th September the British steamship "An-king," en route from Singapore, was attacked by pirates who had come on board as passengers. The captain was wounded and two British officers and one Chinese quartermaster were killed. The ship was taken by the pirates to Honghoi Bay, east of Bias Bay. On the 3rd November the British steamship "Shasi" was similarly seized by pirates on the Yangtse, about 11 miles below Hankow. One Chinese member of the crew was killed and one wounded, and an American passenger was seriously wounded. The pirates confined themselves to looting the personal effects of passengers, officers and crew. There seems to be no evidence that piracy is on the increase; in fact, as compared with previous years, the situation shows some improvement. As a result of the "Anking" piracy the General Officers Commanding, Shanghai and Hong Kong, were authorised to provide military guards on steamers on the Hong Kong, Amoy, Swatow and Singapore routes. Similar authority had previously been given to the General Officers Commanding, Malaya.

In addition to the normal patrolling by His Majesty's ships of the main steamer routes and the known centres of piracy in China, on the 10th November arrangements were initiated for putting armed naval guards on British steamers on the Lower and Middle Yangtse. It is not clear that an increased number of gunboats would be a certain cure for this evil, and the naval Commander-in-Chief has not, up to date, recommended any such increase.

Representations as to the need of taking effective action against the pirates' lairs are constantly made to the various Chinese authorities concerned. His Majesty's Consul-General at Canton reports that the authorities there have shown some activity in dealing with the base at Bias Bay and killed a number of pirates and released some of their prisoners. From the subsequent case of the s.s. "Anking" it appears that their action has been only partially effective, and may have simply resulted in the pirates moving their base to Honghoi Bay. His Majesty's Consul-General at Hankow reports that the Chinese authorities there have made a great many arrests of persons suspected of having taken part in the piracy of s. s. "Shasi," and that they appear to be dealing with the matter energetically.

Compensation has in the past been paid by the Government of Hong Kong in the case of the death or injury of officers of British ships as the result of resistance to piratical attacks, but now that the Piracy Regulations, which imposed on shipowners certain duties in connection with the prevention of piracy, have been abolished in accordance with their wish so as to leave them a free hand to take their own measures, it seems likely that the Hong Kong Government will consider that the responsibility for compensating the families of the officers should also devolve on the shipowners.


Has the right hon. Gentleman had any reports concerning Miss Muriel Mann, who was reported to have been shot this week?


Not that I know of.


Is it not the case that the real responsibility for suppressing these piratical activities rests upon the Chinese authorities; and is it not the case that these authorities are well aware of the identity of these pirates? In view of these facts, will the Under-Secretary make representations to the Chinese authorities with a view to suppressing these piratical activities?


My answer was rather long, and my hon. Friend may not have been able to follow it, but I pointed out that we had made representations. We know that the Chinese authorities are doing their best in the matter, and we are co-operating.


Has the Under-Secretary any reason to suppose that the best that the Chinese can do will save British officers from being murdered?

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