493.11 Ekvall, Henry/47: Telegram

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

1231. Legation’s 1229, November 3, 1 p.m.87

Following from Stanton at Sian.
“November 3, 9 a.m. Legation’s November 2, 1 p.m.
On November 1st a reply was received from the chairman to the communication mentioned in paragraph 3 of my October 27, 9 p.m.,88 and was immediately mailed to the Legation. Content is as forecast with the exception that the Provincial Government expresses an earnest desire to clear up the case as soon as possible, at the outside within a month.
No reply has been made. Yesterday we had a long discussion with Li Chih-kang, director of the Bureau of Civil Affairs, and one of the chairman’s representatives, and attempted once more to ascertain precisely what the authorities are doing and the real significance of the time limit. We received the usual assurances that everything is being done but Li could not say that General Yang has a definite plan to clear up the case. However, this period may be used to manufacture evidence. It was impressed upon Li, as has been constantly done from the beginning, that the essentials are the punishment of the guilty and the recovery of the bodies.
After 10 days of constant discussion with the local authorities I believe it is very unlikely that the provincial authorities will disclose the truth since they themselves are either implicated or desire for some reason or other to conceal the truth. From the remarks of Nanking’s representatives it is evident that they feel similarly about the case but have no power to do anything. It is problematical whether Nanking or Chiang could remove Yang and the present regime in the event of our ability to expose the real facts and failing such action foreigners resident in the province would be subject to the vindictiveness of disgraced but still powerful officials. Of this the missionaries here are all apprehensive.
It is still believed that a desire for a large indemnity or exemplary damages would bring added pressure to bear. This appears to be the only way in which the authorities can be made to feel the seriousness of the crime and might possibly result in the guilty being punished;”
From the above telegram and from Stanton’s written despatch [Page 544] of October 30 it appears that special Chinese representatives are bringing emphatic and persistent pressure to bear upon Shensi authorities but with little if any effect in bringing about punishment of guilty who are for seemingly obvious reasons being protected by Shensi authorities. Missionaries appear fearful that punishment of Shensi military without removal from power will result in vindictive acts against remaining missionaries. In this same general regard Stanton reports receipt of more precise and detailed information concerning burial on official premises of Ekvall and companions but raises question as to the advisability of utilizing this information at the present time in view of serious repercussions which will probably follow disclosures of so grave a nature.
Stanton further reports that Hang and Chin have been definitely instructed to bring constant pressure to bear upon the provincial authorities and both state definitely that General Chiang Kai-shek is genuinely interested in the case and is pressing the Shensi authorities by telegram; that Shensi Provincial Government has done nothing and probably will do nothing towards definite solution of the crime but that in view of the pressure being brought to bear upon him from various quarters General Yang feels that some sort of settlement must be effected.
While the Legation will continue to press for punishment of guilty it appears increasingly doubtful if Shensi authorities will ever admit guilt of their soldiers and with this in mind it is possible that only punishment which may be applicable to them will be the demands for payment of heavy indemnity which may rouse Shensi chairman into punishing soldiers whose crime necessitated such payment.
In despatch dated October 30 Stanton reports that personal representative of Shensi Provincial Chairman informed him that American representatives would shortly receive written statement of Shensi government’s proposals for settlement of claim by apology, payment of indemnity and assurance of future protection of American citizens. Stanton comments as follows:

“As regards indemnity they undoubtedly have in mind the claim of the China Inland Motors and if other claims are to be presented by the Legation it is again urged this be done without delay as it is believed that once the company’s claim is paid other claims will receive merely perfunctory consideration.”

The Legation agrees with Stanton that any monetary claims should be presented without further delay. The Department’s instructions are accordingly urgently requested.
  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram No. 1220, October 28, 5 p.m., from the Minister in China, p. 537.