File No. 893.00/2416

Consul Peck to the Secretary of State

No. 88

Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 86, of March 24, 1916,2 I have the honor to state that the plans for the uprising alluded to therein as scheduled for this month seem to be progressing for fulfillment, [Page 72] inasmuch as April 20 is now set for an attack on the cities of Kiao-chow and Kaomi, both on the Shantung Railway and within the neutral area about the leased territory. It is understood that this attack will be made by the rebel forces now in Tsingtau, said to number about one thousand real revolutionists and two or three thousand hired ruffians. After those cities are taken Weihsien is to be the next point of attack. At this city there is a station of the American Presbyterian Mission and a number of Americans reside there who might come into some danger if these plans are carried through. This place is in the Chefoo consular district.

A proof of the brazen effrontery with which the so-called revolutonists are acting under the aegis of Japanese official indifference is afforded by the report brought to this office from reliable sources that the prominent Chinese merchants here are to be blackmailed by them under threat of death. One man, well known to the writer, has been levied upon for thirty thousand taels and has fled to Shanghai. Others are in hourly apprehension of the same demand. The only prudent course would appear to be go in a body to the Japanese authorities and demand protection, but this they are afraid to do.

In the meantime in Tsingtau itself there are many more policemen on the streets than formerly were visible. Every night two Chinese policemen stand guard in front of this consulate, whereas until recently there were no policemen in this entire neighborhood. Chinese of position are afraid to go on the streets after nightfall, but Europeans are probably in no danger, as any violence actually practiced will in all likelihood be carefully calculated and not simple acts of brigandage. This office will venture outside of its consular district so far as to send informal warning to the American missionaries at Weihsien and vicinity of the necessity for watchfulness.

In this connection I have the honor to state that an American citizen who recently returned from a journey through the southern part of the province reports that rumors of the impending incursion from the leased territory have already penetrated to that region and that the people are extremely apprehensive thereof. Recruits for the little army of revolutionists in Tsingtau are coming in from Manchuria on every steamer, all Japanese ships, and while it is of course possible that the whole project may turn out a fiasco, yet if it is true, as reported, that the Province of Kuangtung declared its independence of the present Chinese Government a few days ago, pronounced successes on the part of the rebels elsewhere will have much to do with encouraging them to a bold attempt in this province.

It is well to explain in conclusion that the men who are being blackmailed here are not adherents of any political party but belong to that class of men, large in north China, the members of which are indifferent to governmental affairs and adapt themselves with equal good humor to any sort of domination, republican or monarchical, Chinese or foreign, provided that in return for their compliance they are afforded a reasonable amount of freedom to pursue their private concerns. Having thrived here under German control they have lately, at the behest of the Japanese victors, embarked considerable sums in joint Japanese-Chinese business ventures. It is to be feared that in the present circumstances the political schemes emanating [Page 73] from Tokyo will interfere with the commercial rapprochement engineered by the local military administration, since political turmoil puts an end to commercial prosperity.

I have [etc.]

Willys R. Peck
  1. Not printed.