The Consul General at Shanghai (Cunningham) to the Secretary of State

No. 8253

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith enclosed copy of a communiqué issued April 16, 1932 by the Japanese Consulate General,90 [Page 631] releasing the text of a letter from the Japanese Consul General to Mr. A. D. Bell, the Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council with regard to attacks on Japanese civilians by Chinese in the International Settlement. It will be noted that strong representations are made to the S. M. C. in this regard. Mr. Murai states in part:

“I cannot but view with grave misgivings such recurrence of outrages and apparent inefficiency of the Municipal police in coping with the situation, inasmuch as the resentment keenly felt in consequence by the local Japanese community might, it is feared, lead to some serious complications.”

In this connection I am informed that almost immediately after the incoming Chairman, Mr. Bell, assumed office on April 14, he received a call from the Japanese Consul General in which the latter made vigorous representations along the lines of his written communication and stated that if these attacks on Japanese did not cease, he, the Japanese Consul General, feared that the effect thereof on the Japanese military and naval authorities in Shanghai would be very bad and might lead to serious complications. I am informed that Mr. Bell in replying assured the Japanese Consul General that Japanese subjects in the International Settlement were entitled to and would receive police protection equal to that accorded the nationals of other Powers. However, he is reported to have said that in view of the recent hostilities the Japanese should have acted in a more circumspect manner than they have done in certain instances in various parts of the Settlement where it was stated their manner was calculated to provoke the anger of Chinese crowds.

In this connection it will be recalled that in my telegram No. 196 of March 23, 5 p.m.,91 referring to the recent Municipal elections, I stated that the Councilors elected were known to be sympathetic toward proposals for Settlement extension. As it is believed that this is also the Japanese view, it appears somewhat surprising that the Japanese should at the outset have taken a strong stand which would alienate whatever sympathy the members of the Council may have had for the Japanese position. I am informed on very good authority that the Chairman, Mr. Bell who was not unsympathetic toward the Japanese, has become somewhat annoyed at the attitude taken by the Consul General.

It will be recalled that in my telegram of October 21, 1931, 2 p.m.92 I referred to the fact that the Japanese considered that the Shanghai Municipal police were not sufficiently drastic in their methods and did not understand the proper method of dealing with Chinese. This [Page 632] attitude is confirmed by present reports. In this connection I learn that recently several Chinese have been arrested in the Hongkew district by members of the Shanghai Municipal Council police of Japanese nationality and have been turned over for investigation to the Japanese military authorities on the ground that they were plain clothes Chinese soldiers, it being alleged in some cases that they had on Chinese military uniforms under their civilian dress.

There have been for some months past various rumours prevalent in Shanghai to the effect that the Japanese are seeking to obtain a greater degree of control in municipal affairs. They have already obtained an increase in the number of Japanese nationals on the municipal police force, including an Assistant Commissioner of Police, and it is felt in certain quarters that by another year they will succeed in obtaining additional seats on the Council. According to the report of Justice Feetham the Japanese population of the International Settlement in 1930 was 12,788 while the number of Japanese ratepayers was only 654 and the number of votes 668. The British population was 4606, 971 ratepayers and 1203 votes, while the American population was 1145, 308 ratepayers and 328 votes. According to the system of election whereby an owner of land of an assessed value of Ts500 or a householder who pays on an assessed value of Ts500 or upward is entitled to vote, it would seem that with this large Japanese population the number of Japanese ratepayers could easily be very greatly increased by a method of the subdivision of householders. This would give the Japanese a greatly increased number of ratepayers and they might use this to increase the number of Councilors. In fact it is believed that it will not be long before they are in a position to have a Japanese as chairman of the Council.

Respectfully yours,

Edwin S. Cunningham