Mr. Denby to Mr. Blaine.
Peking, January 30, 1892. (Received March 21.)
Sir: This legation has written so much touching events as they transpired in China that an extended notice thereof would seem to be unnecessary. Nevertheless, I have the honor to forward the following slight review of the important events of the year.
The audience which the Emperor of his own will and unsolicited granted to the foreign representatives on the 6th day of last March was the most important event in the early part of this year. It was supposed that this audience would have great weight with the people, would show that China had at last realized that foreign powers were its equals, and that good will to foreigners on the part of the people would result therefrom.
It is apparent that this event has had no material effect in removing from the minds of the populace their deep-seated hostility to foreigners. This year has been signalized by more antagonism to foreigners and native Christians than any other period.
May 14 the first outbreak occurred at Urehu. The foreign customs staff bravely defended the settlement and no loss of life occurred, but all the foreign women and children fled from the city. This trouble, without much doubt, was caused by the machinations of the Ko-lao-Hui secret society.
Riots followed at Nanking Wuchow, Tanyang, See Kow-hsien, Kiu-kiang, Woosieh, Wechen, Taku-tang, and other minor places, and finally at Ichang.
No American was injured during the riots, nor was any American property destroyed, except at Nanking and Ichang.[Page 85]
During the progress of these riots the foreign representatives were urgently demanding stringent protective and punitory measures. By their influence an imperial proclamation, which is a notable paper, was issued the 14th day of June. This proclamation was slowly circulated by the imperial government. I took measures to have it sent to every American mission immediately.
The action of the naval authorities, who had issued stringent orders to the warships on this station, more than any other cause, resulted in staying the progress of the riots. The viceroy, Chang Chih-tung, was notified by a British commander that if a riot occurred at Hankow or Wuchang he would fire on the rioters. No riots occurred in those cities.
In the month of September the foreign office was notified by the foreign representatives that the matters at issue would be referred by them to their respective governments. In accordance therewith a joint paper was prepared and signed and sent to the foreign powers which are represented at Peking. It was therein recommended that foreign men-of-war should be stationed at the ports on the Yangtze and at Shanghai and Canton, and that China should be made liable to pay their expenses. (See my dispatch, No. 1389, of 17th September, 1891.)
Thereafter, until the recent riots in Mongolia, there was no destruction of any importance in China.
In the month of November, bands of brigands in eastern Mongolia attacked several villages inhabited by native Christians, and killed four hundred people, and burnt and destroyed all property belonging to the Christians. The movement grew into an insurrection against the Government, and assumed large proportions. Imperial troops were sent against the rebels; about twenty thousand people were killed. The rebellion is now over; the rebels have either been killed in battle, or decapitated after capture.
During this year Chungking was opened to foreign trade. The new Russian Minister, Count Cassini, and the French Minister, Mr. G. Lemaire, arrived at Peking in November. They applied for audience by the Emperor. Their application was granted and a hall, called the Cheng Kuang-tien, was designated as the place of reception. This hall is located in the grounds adjoining the palace ordinarily occupied by the Emperor, but not in what is generally known as the “prohibited city.” These gentlemen declined to attend at this hall, and demanded that they should be received in one of the imperial palaces which are ordinarily occupied by the Emperor. Their demand was refused and they persisted in declining an audience.
This question will come before the foreign representatives next month, who will be called on to decide whether they will make the Emperor a New Year’s call in the hall mentioned. The Cheng Kuang-tien is the same hall in which Baron Bisgeleben, Minister of Austria-Hungary, was received.
It is supposed that obscene placards and pamphlets have been exciting causes to riots. Persistent efforts have been made by the foreign representatives to prevent the circulation of these publications, but hitherto without any great result.
Influenza has prevailed to an alarming extent in China, and many foreigners have suffered thereby.
Business has not been as prosperous as in some former years.
I have the honor, etc.,