HC Deb 10 November 1942 vol 383 cc2318-9W
Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has regarding conditions in the Stanley Camp, Hong Kong; and what efforts are being made to obtain further information regarding the British prisoners there?

Mr. Law

From reliable first-hand evidence which has recently become available, it is apparent that conditions at the Stanley Internment Camp in Hong Kong have considerably improved since the early days. The camp itself is on the Stanley Peninsula close to the sea. It consists of the warders' quarters of Stanley prison and the premises of St. Stephen's College. These are modern buildings with electricity, running water, flush closets, etc. But there is no doubt that there is great overcrowding and a shortage of beds and bedding. At one time as many as nine people were living in the larger rooms and five or six in the small rooms. There has been some slight improvement in this respect since the early months. The area is surrounded by barbed wire, but there are facilities for exercise. At the end of July the general health situation could be regarded as satisfactory. There had been no major epidemics in the camp, though there had previously been some cases of a mild form of dysentery. There have, too, been some cases of beri-beri, which were being treated as well as possible in the absence of suitable drugs. Medical supplies in general are running short and the International Red Cross Committee are doing their utmost to ship them to Hong Kong. There have been very few deaths in the camp and those that have occurred were due generally to organic diseases.

During July a medical examination had been made by a British doctor of all persons in the camp with results which showed a great improvement in health since May, when the conditions were at their worst. There had been two medical surveys of the children in the camp. The first survey in April-May had given an unsatisfactory result. The second, in July, showed a great improvement, thanks to the successful efforts of the camp welfare committee in procuring food, including milk, to supplement the children's rations. A small library had been collected which was supplemented by the American camp library after the departure of the Americans. Religious services have been regularly held in the camp by all the religious denominations represented there. The welfare committee have made strenuous efforts to arrange various forms of entertainment which have included performances by the "Stanley Strollers" Concert Party. Permission had been given for sea bathing in the middle of July. Food was quite inadequate at first, but there has been a marked improvement from May onwards, when flour was given in substitution of part of the rice rations. A canteen has been functioning where cereals, tinned meat and fish, dried fruits, tea, coffee, cocoa, jam and powdered milk can be obtained in limited quantities. The clothing position depended upon what individual internees were able to bring with them into the camp. In some cases the internees had nothing but what they stood up in, and in general the clothing problem, especially shoes, has been acute.

Although the extremely bad conditions which prevailed at first have been Confirmed, it is clear that there has been a marked improvement Since May, particularly as regards food and health. The recent arrival of 1,000 tons of supplies, including clothing, should result in a further improvement. In the absence Of a representative of the Protecting Power, owing to the refusal of the Japanese to allow foreign Consuls to function in Hong Kong, His Majesty's Government have to rely on such information as they can get regarding conditions in Hong Kong either from the representative of the International Red Cross or from private sources. His Majesty's Government have asked the International Red Cross representative for regular reports and they are taking all possible steps to speed up the proper working of the prisoners of war mail service.