HC Deb 21 April 1952 vol 499 cc51-2
Mr. Eden

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House I should like to make a statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Another one?"] The previous statement was in reply to a Question. If the House will allow me the indulgence I wish to make a statement of some importance.

The House will wish to know that Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires in Peking has been instructed to address a Note to the Chinese Government today bringing to their notice all cases of Australian, Canadian, United Kingdom and United States citizens reported to be under detention in China, requesting information about those who have been arrested, the nature of the charges, what sentences, if any, have been passed on them, and their present whereabouts and welfare, and requesting facilities to enable Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires to communicate with them.

Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is in charge of Australian, Canadian and United States interests in China. This step has, therefore, been taken on behalf of and with the approval of the Governments of Canada, Australia and the United States as well as on our own account.

There are believed to be 55 citizens of the countries in question who are at present in gaol. Five of these are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, five of Canada, three of Australia and 42 of the United States. A further 20 United States citizens are reported to be under house arrest.

Others are known to have died in prison, though no satisfactory details have been obtained from the Chinese authorities, and several have been released in such a poor state of health, due to neglect of their special ailments, that they died shortly after release. The figures given are subject to correction, since in most cases persons under detention have not been permitted to get in touch with their national representative families or friends.

General representations on behalf of those detained were made by Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires in August last year and the attention of the Central People's Government has repeatedly been drawn to the various individual cases by separate communications. I regret to inform the House that these representations do not so far appear to have effected any improvement in the situation. Hence the Note which Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires has been instructed to address today to the Chinese Government.

Mr. Harold Davies

How has the Foreign Secretary had the information that there has been no improvement in the conditions of the people who are either under house arrest or in imprisonment if there has been no real contact with the Chinese People's Government? Secondly, when did the British Government make the first approaches to the Chinese for some rectification and clarification of this position?

Mr. Eden

The first representations were made by the late Government last autumn. We have continued individual representations on various cases, but we felt, in view of the situation as it now is, and its seriousness, that we ought to address a formal Note of protest setting out the whole position, and I very much hope that it will have the effect of allowing our consulate authorities to make representations on the various individual cases.