393.1123 Coltman, Charles/20

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs, Department of State (MacMurray)

Mr. Yung Kwai called this morning at my request, and I conveyed to him in the Secretary’s behalf an expression of appreciation that this case is now receiving the personal attention of Dr. Alfred Sze as Minister for Foreign Affairs (despite some disappointment that his telegram of January 8 to the Legation here33 had referred without comment to the Chinese Government’s expression of regret which erroneously alleged that the identity of our Consul was unknown at the time the firing upon him and Mr. Coltman took place) and added an expression of hope that the Chinese Government would appreciate the gravity of the situation and would take without delay proper measures of reparation and of punishment.

Mr. Yung Kwai showed some disposition to argue that the case was not altogether clear, as the investigating Committee appointed by the Chinese Foreign Office had reported that, (1) the identity of the Consul was unknown, (2) the soldiers who shot Coltman were acting in order to enforce a local regulation which had long been in effect and fully known to the whole community, and (3) the Coltman party had fired the first shots.

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I told him that these three points were all covered precisely and in detail by the reports of Consul Sokobin, which I had already read to him; and that, to put it bluntly, I felt that his reports were conclusive on these points of fact inasmuch as he is personally known to me as a dependable and level-headed consular officer, whereas the Chinese investigating committee would appear to have depended upon the word of the coolie soldiers who are actually responsible for the crime, as apparently the officer in command had tried to escape responsibility by absenting himself when the actual shooting occurred.

Mr. Yung Kwai then said that he had raised these points not as expressing the views of his Government, but solely as indicating the nature of the report made by the Chinese Investigating Committee, for what it was worth; and that, as a matter of fact, the latest telegram he had received from Dr. Sze had advised him that complete accord had been reached with the American Minister on all points except that of the American party having fired the first shots.

I said that this made an interesting commentary upon the work of the Chinese Committee of Investigation, which had evidently gone up to Kalgan in order to draw red herrings across the trail, and for that purpose had apparently attempted to raise three separate issues of fact, two of which had already been discredited by the Chinese Foreign Office. I added that the whole attitude of the Chinese Government in this case led us to feel that it was not trying to settle the matter justly, but was trying to evade the issues and find excuses for delay and evasion; and that our one hope in the matter was that … Dr. Alfred Sze would assure that the Chinese Government … realized the gravity of the matter before a very unfortunate situation had been created.

Mr. Yung Kwai again promised to send “a very strong telegram”, urging that the Foreign Office should dismiss the minor questions and meet the main issues promptly and fairly.

  1. Telegram not printed.