893.00/8022: Telegram

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

21. Following are substantial portions of telegrams received from Hankow:

“January 7, 2 p.m. Situation in Hankow this morning somewhat easier but by no means normal. Great uncertainty prevails as to [Page 239] the course of events. Practically all British firms including Hongkong-Shanghai Bank still closed and until present anti-British feeling subsides they cannot hope to reopen and do business. There is still almost complete paralysis of business in the other concessions and special districts. So far no concrete evidence of movement against French and Japanese Concessions but the temper of the Labor element is such that the starting of such a movement would not be surprising. The Kutwo sailed last night loaded to capacity with women and children. Additional facilities were afforded by placing Navy cots and blankets aboard with necessary food supplies.

Heavy rain today has perhaps dampened enthusiasm of the rioters and has had a tendency to calm the situation. More American women and children will leave the port as soon as facilities are available.

One of the real difficulties of the situation is that foreigners have no confidence in the assurances given by the Government for protection since they have seen such assurance come to naught before. Another serious difficulty is the economic and financial paralysis of the port which has thrown many Chinese in the concessions and in the native city out of employment. The readjustment, if any substantial progress is made in that direction, will necessarily be slow. As an example of the aggressive measures adopted by the Chinese I may cite the taking over of the electric light works, a British concern. Pickets and soldiers are the principal means of preserving order and the latter, it is said, have not been paid for months. There is constant danger of the soldiers’ running amuck.

If there is any plan on foot by the British to retake possession of the Concession, there is no evidence of it. Everything tends in the opposite direction.

Events of the last three days moved with such rapidity and there is such extreme pressure on my time that it was utterly impossible to report many details.”

“January 8, 4 p.m. General situation today somewhat quieter. Foreign banks except British have reopened for business. Practically all business houses still closed. A Chinese police force composed of 190 men has been organized for duty in the British Concession, and pickets and soldiers are being withdrawn. Unless some fresh outbreak occurs, Hongkong-Shanghai Bank and Chartered Bank will probably attempt to reopen for business Monday. A few British subjects are venturing out on the streets in the Concession today and anti-British placards are being removed from Hongkong-Shanghai [Bank?] and other institutions. Situation generally is gradually improving but is still very confused. Japanese and French Concessions and two special districts are quiet. Much trouble with carrying coolies who are exacting by threats and intimidation exorbitant fees for transportation of baggage for persons leaving the port. A few additional American wives are leaving today. About half of the American women and children resident here have fled. My family remaining.

Steamship Kutwo which left here day before yesterday with many women and children aboard passed Wuhu safely yesterday. A number of refugees evacuated from Kiukiang yesterday arrived here today and are being sent to Shanghai. British Concession at Kiu-kiang [Page 240] now in complete possession of Chinese soldiers and pickets. Americans have either been evacuated or are safely aboard U. S. S. Penguin. American women and children are leaving Ichang and I am conferring with representatives of missionary organizations here this afternoon with a view to having them suggest to their missionaries in interior points in this consular district to withdraw and concentrate in larger ports. Fresh reports from interior inform me that conditions are growing steadily worse. Regret very much that you have not been able to come here before going to Washington.”

“January 9, noon. Situation much improved today. Pickets and soldiers entirely withdrawn from British Concession, the affairs of which are being provisionally administered by committee composed of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of Finance, Minister of Communications. Practically all British men remaining in the port, still being held in Asiatic Petroleum Building by order of the British Admiral. Continued concentration of these men has created great uneasiness in the minds of other foreign residents of the port, as well as Chinese, as many interpret it to mean that the British may contemplate regaining the Concession by force.”