393.1162/1: Telegram

The Minister in China ( MacMurray ) to the Secretary of State

126. 1. Following two telegrams received from American consul, Canton:

“March 10, 11 a.m. At 11 o’clock yesterday morning strikers’ pickets surrounded Canton hospital and forced all domestic helpers to leave under threats of death. Entrances to hospital are guarded by the pickets in uniform armed with clubs who refuse to permit any Chinese to enter. Hospital management declines to accept demands for the complete unionization of staff and may close institution temporarily if the local authorities fail to afford adequate protection. Police are standing by but evidently authorities do not dare openly to oppose strikers. Other American mission institutions expect similar attacks but the American staffs thought not to be in any immediate danger.

Information just received strikers preventing food supplies from entering hospital. Water supply has been cut off. This consulate general protesting vigorously.” And:

“March 12, 5 p.m. Referring to my telegram of March 10, 11 a.m. and March 11, 4 p.m., paragraph number 2.88a Local government has failed utterly to protect hospital against the strike pickets [Page 699] and openly states that it favors so-called pro-labor union policy. All patients (Chinese) have been removed and only American members of the staff remain observer [sic]. Pickets still surround hospital and prevent food supplies being brought in even by Americans. Water supply still cut off also.

If these conditions continue much longer Captain Constien89 and I agree Navy should undertake to revictual American staff. Should this become necessary, force would not be used except as last resort and only to repel attack by the pickets. It is not anticipated that either local government or the pickets would permit matters to go so far but we should be prepared for any eventuality.

Alternative plan would be to abandon hospital property, but this would very probably lead to occupation of the premises by the Chinese and similar attacks on other American missionary institutions.

I am firmly of the opinion that the time has come for us to warn local government that it cannot continue this cowardly policy of hiding behind the strike pickets while deliberately depriving American citizens of their elemental rights not to menace those under the treaties. Am awaiting Legation’s instructions.

Canton Christian college expects strike of employees shortly.”

2. I have replied as follows:

  • “(1) I approve procedure proposed by you to revictual American staff of hospital. I assume that it is not to be used until other means of carrying out this program are exhausted and fire action only employed to repel attack. I await reply to my March 1, 4 p.m.,90 before instructing regarding the suggestion you made in penultimate paragraph of your March 12, 5 p.m.
  • (2) I leave to your judgment the expediency of requesting commander in chief to despatch further naval forces to Canton.
  • (3) I have informed commander in chief of my approval of your proposal and requested him to afford you whatever assistance you may request.”

  1. For telegram of March 11, see infra.
  2. Edward T. Constien, U. S. N., commander of the South China Patrol.
  3. Not found in Department files.