File No. 893.00/1628.

The American Chargé d’Affaires to the Secretary of State.

No. 796.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that there has been considerable agitation in political circles for ten days past, due for the most part to the recent assassination of Sung Chiaojen, who was Minister of Commerce and Industries in the first republican cabinet in Peking—that organized by Tong Shao-yi. When Tong resigned, Sung followed his chief into retirement, but has been very active in promoting the interests of the Kuo Ming Tang or Nationalist Party, of which he was the elected leader. Pie was credited with the authorship of the policy, advocated by that party, which demanded a responsible cabinet composed of members of the party or parties controlling the National Assembly. Pie had endeavored to have this policy adopted by the Provisional Government. President Yuan, it is alleged by Sung’s friends, had repeatedly declared that he would not be President with Sung for Premier. The Kuo Ming Tang is now busily engaged in circulating certain reports of alleged occurrences, which, as circumstantial evidence, tend to fasten the crime of Sung’s assassination upon the President and his Cabinet. The whole country is excited by these reports and the prophets of evil are adding to the unrest by their predictions of impending trouble.

Mr. Sung had been attending a conference of his party at Shanghai and on the evening of the 20th of March he started for Peking in company with other members of the forthcoming National Assembly. While waiting to take the train at the Shanghai station, he was shot by one Wu Fu-ming, who easily escaped in the excitement occasioned by the crime and took refuge in the French Concession. * * *

On the 23rd instant, the assassin was arrested in the French Concession and confessed his guilt, stating that he had been hired to commit the crime by a Mr. Ying Kuei-hsing. * * *

Wu Fu-ming and Ying Kuei-hsing last week had preliminary hearings in Shanghai; the former in the French Concession, the latter [Page 107] in the International Settlement. Wu confessed, as stated above; Ying was remanded for one week and was to have been brought up for trial yesterday.

The Diplomatic Representatives met yesterday afternoon to consider the request of the Chinese Government that the accused persons be handed over to the Chinese authorities for trial. After a careful consideration of the provisions of the treaties and precedents bearing upon the case, the Dean was instructed to reply as follows:

The Dean has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Wai Chiao Pu’s letter of that 27th March with reference to the murder of Sung Chiao-jen, in which it was requested that the murderer, Wu Fu-ming, and others, together with Ying Kuei-hsing and all the witnesses, should be remitted to the Chinese authorities on the ground that the crime was committed on Chinese territory and that the guilty parties and the victim were all Chinese subjects.

The Dean is authorized by his Colleagues to state, in reply, that Wu Fu-ming is in the hands of the authorities of the French Concession at Shanghai and that his case should be treated separately with his excellency the French Minister. As to Ying Kuei-hsing, who is in the hands of the authorities of the International Settlement, the Dean is instructed to say that the Diplomatic Body have no objection to his being handed over to the Chinese authorities, provided that a prima facie case of his guilt is established to the satisfaction of the Mixed Court of the International Settlement.

* * * It seems incredible that the President could have had any knowledge of the plot to assassinate Sung, since he could not have deceived himself into believing that such an attack upon the leader of the opposition would not at once place the Government under suspicion and weaken his hold upon the country. He has proved himself an astute politician in the past and could undoubtedly have compassed Sting’s defeat without resorting to such measures. It is not impossible, however, that some overzealous follower of Yuan may have thought he was aiding the President’s cause by planning such a crime.* * *

But it is not at all necessary to implicate any of Yuan’s followers in order to account for the murder of Sung.* * * The Nationalist Party is a conglomeration of a number of small parties. The leaders of these small parties are not free from jealousy, one of another, and it is reasonably sure that they are not agreed upon the policies advocated by Sung. Jealousy aroused by his ascendancy in the counsels of the party would account for the attack upon him and the resort to such a crime is not at all surprising when one reflects that the revolutionists for years past have preached and practiced assassination. They must expect to reap what they sow.

The “Republican Advocate” of Shanghai threatens that Sung’s death will be avenged by a reign of terror more frightful than that of the French Revolution. But such talk is easy under the protection of the Foreign Settlement of Shanghai which has always been a city of refuge or, more properly speaking, a cave of Adullam for conspirators against the Government, whether it be Manchu Monarchy, or Chinese Republic. But, while there may be no reign of terror at hand, there is undoubtedly too much talk on the one side of bomb-throwing and assassination, and too much disposition on the other side to resort to summary execution to get rid of dangerous opponents; and it is quite true that leaders of both sides are in constant dread of attack.

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs receives threatening letters every day and the President has left his residence but two or three times since his inauguration and has had the streets heavily guarded when he went out.* * *

The really serious feature of the situation is that the peace of the whole county seems to depend upon this one man. Even the Nationalists seem to have no one to present as a candidate for the presidency. * * * With such a lack of men of national calibre, what would happen to the country if Yuan were to be taken away? I can anticipate nothing but chaos. If foreign intervention could be prevented, there would undoubtedly come in due time the strong man who could and would restore peace and order, but time would be indispensable to the accomplishment of such a result.

The only hope for the preservation of order, it seems to me, is in the continuance of Yuan Shih-K’ai in power. If he should be spared, there is a possibility that the Republic may last and that the establishment of representative government may in time bring into prominence men of large mould, real statesmen, who can command the allegiance of the nation.

The recognition of the Republic by the foreign powers would undoubtedly do much to strengthen Yuan in the eyes of the people and in the estimation of the forthcoming National Assembly, and thus tend to quiet the prevailing unrest and the ever-present fear of disorder. There is no other government contending with his for recognition and he has no rival for the presidency worthy of mention. Therefore, in my telegram of March 28th, I have recommended immediate recognition by the American Government. It is not that I believe Yuan to be an ideal president or a brilliant statesman, but simply that, in my opinion, the only choice lies between Yuan and chaos, and that the sooner we recognize his Government, the better it will be for China and for American interests in China.

I have [etc.]

E. T. Williams.