393.1111 Stam, John C./60: Telegram

The Chargé in China (Gauss) to the Secretary of State

73. Reference Legation’s 69, February 9, 10 a.m. concerning the Stam case. Legation has now received and translated the Foreign [Page 673] Office note of February 1st [7th] with enclosures consisting of the statements of the Tsingteh Magistrate, the Chairman of the Tsingteh Chamber of Commerce, one local petty official, Chinese pastor Lo, the two Stam servants, and the four alleged murderers.

The note first outlines the action taken by the Foreign Office to request the military council and the Anhwei Provincial Government to devise means to effect the rescue of the Stams later, when it learned of their death, to apprehend and punish the murderers and rescue the child. It also stated that Kuangson Young, a special inspector of the Foreign Office, was instructed to conduct an investigation and then proceeds to summarize the result of the investigation along the following lines:

Tsingteh is in an isolated mountainous section of southern Anhwei, with poor communication facilities and no telegraph or telephone service. The communist bandits who fled from Kiangsi were defeated on the Chekiang border by Government troops and fled into southern Anhwei, persistently pursued by Government troops, who recaptured Tsingteh the day after it was taken by the Reds and, learning that the Stams had been carried off by the Reds, pushed on to Miaoshou where on December 8th they engaged the Reds in “desperate battle” for “four long hours”. The Foreign Office claims that the Government troops exhausted all efforts to rescue the Stams. This statement is unconvincing.
The note then presents the testimony of the Tsingteh Magistrate that he informed Stam last September that although the situation at Tsingteh was then quiet the neighboring districts were frequently disturbed by communist banditti and he advised Stam not to come to Tsingteh until the spring but Stam and his family came to Tsingteh unexpectedly in November and were told by the Magistrate that they could reside there only temporarily. Early in the morning of December 6, the Magistrate received a report that the Reds were moving toward Tsingteh. At 7 a.m. he sent the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce to warn Stam to leave immediately and shortly after 8 a.m. he sent a petty officer with a further warning to the same effect. The Reds reached Tsingteh about 11 a.m. He opposed them with his small defense force for several hours but was finally overwhelmed and the city was taken. The Foreign Office points out that the Magistrate’s statement concerning the warnings sent to Stam is confirmed by the testimony of the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, the local petty officer and the two Stam servants.
The next paragraph was translated by Peck and repeated to the Department in my 69, February 9, 10 a.m.
Foreign Office claims Chinese Government does its best at all times to protect foreign missionaries who go into the interior and states that not only the Stams but also about 40 Chinese were murdered. [Page 674] The note states: “The Chinese Government regrets extremely that Chinese and foreigners encountered this cruel fate.” Apart from this there is no especial expression of regret at the murder of the Stams. Foreign Office adds that due to poor communication facilities and the great number of bandits the Magistrate was at the time unable to prevent the sudden occurrence but he was actually responsible for the protection of the locality and has been removed from office.

Foreign Office says that this incident cannot be compared with an ordinary case of premeditated murder and is connected with Communist activities which the Government is continuing vigorously to suppress.

The Legation has carefully examined the statements of the Magistrate, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, the petty local official and the Stam servants and is inclined to accept the assertion that the Stams were warned by the Magistrate to leave Tsingteh on the morning of December 6 before the communists reached that town.

The Legation is also satisfied that substantial Government forces in Anhwei are actively attempting to suppress Reds in that area. This activity does not result from the Stam murders but is part of the communist suppression campaign.

As to the four alleged murderers their statements are very brief and to the effect that they were soldiers of the Seventh Red Route Army and that the four of them killed the Stams, the leader of the group saying that they did so “acting under instructions”. These statements are most unconvincing and as I have previously commented to the Department it is most surprising that the Chinese Government has omitted to make any press statement on the matter.

Subject to the Department’s approval the Legation proposes to acknowledge receipt of the Foreign Office note, stating that it is being communicated to the Department, pointing out meanwhile that the record of the examination of the four men executed as the murderers of the Stams fails to show that any attempt was made to ascertain under whose instructions the Americans were killed by these men and urging that further strict investigation be made to identify the person or the persons responsible for the Stam murders and to pursue, apprehend and punish them for this heinous offense.

The Legation proposes further to instruct Peck to deliver this note personally to the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and orally to emphasize importance which the Legation attachés to the apprehension and punishment of the Red bandit leaders responsible for the outrage. The Legation believes at the same time Peck should inquire why, in view of the gravity of this matter, the Chinese Government has made no public statement on the identification and punishment of the four Reds who murdered the Stams under instructions. I am [Page 675] of the opinion that the Chinese Government should if possible be forced to make public on its own responsibility the information which it asks us to believe that the Stam murderers were apprehended and punished.

In my opinion the facts of this case do not justify any demand for indemnity. There is no suggestion that the relatives of the Stams will ask for any such indemnity.