The Consul General at Canton (Spiker) to the Ambassador in China (Johnson)30
Sir: I have the honor to enclose for the Embassy’s information a copy of the Chinese text and this office’s English translation of a secret document31 concerning the alleged activities of the Japanese looking to the establishment of an autonomous government of “South China”, with its beginnings in the Province of Fukien. A copy of the secret document was handed to me by a reliable informant upon my assurances that the document would be handled in strictest confidence and that every care would be taken to preserve its secrecy. For this reason, no mention is made in this despatch of the name of my informant who, it is to be observed, is an official occupying a position of authority and who has proved a reliable informant in the past. This office is inclined to accept his assurances that the secret report is an entirely authentic one submitted by secret Government agents in Fukien. I am informed that these agents, posing as enemies of Marshal Chiang Kai-shek and of the Nanking regime, are being accepted by the Japanese agents as malcontents who may be depended upon to join the “Anti-Japanese Associations” which will shortly transfer their opposition to the allegedly “pro-Japanese” Chiang Kai-shek and the present Nanking Government. Those back of the scheme appear to believe that by this subterfuge it will be a comparatively simple matter to arouse local opposition to Nanking’s appointees in Fukien and to overthrow the existing government regime there, making room for such of the numerous malcontents [Page 15]as may be approved by the Japanese as puppets in the proposed new “autonomous government”.
The secret report is of a business-like tenor, admits that full information has not yet been procured by the secret agents and, in general, rings true as compared with the usual flamboyant reports of Chinese subordinates to their superiors in relation to the accomplishment of tasks to which the former have been set.
While the events described in press reports may be entirely disassociated from the scheme described in the secret report, this office has been interested in the possible relationship of recent newspaper reports similar to the following one which appeared in the South China Morning Post of January 7, 1936, under a Canton date line:
“Communists in southern Fukien have looted the hamlets around Yung Ting (in southwestern Fukien close to northern border of Kwangtung Province), their leader being ‘General’ Lee Tien-hui.
“Lee Tien-hui’s men are equipped with new rifles and wear smart uniforms. The Communist officers told the villagers that they had instructions from the ‘Central Authorities’ to summon a big anti-Japanese meeting.
“After plundering the border villages, the Reds escaped back into Fukien taking several hostages with them.
“Another Communist band is in league with pirates in northern Fukien, by whom they are supplied with smuggled arms.”
In relation to such news reports, it is to be observed that smuggling activities which have long existed between Taiwan and the Fukien coast, which have involved Taiwanese in Fukien, and which, at times, have resulted in the intervention of the Japanese consular, naval and other authorities, would indicate the feasibility of landing arms and ammunitions for the use of malcontents in Fukien, as described in the secret report.
My informant states that definite information has been received to show that, while the Japanese Army is to have control over the establishment of autonomous governments in the north and the interior of China, this task, in relation to the southern coastal provinces, has been assigned to the Japanese naval authorities in cooperation with the Taiwan Government.
Information is now being gathered in relation to Japanese activities in South China in general and will be transmitted in a subsequent despatch.
A copy of this despatch is being supplied in strict confidence to the American Consulates at Foochow, Amoy and Swatow, and to the Commander of the South China Patrol of the United States Asiatic Fleet.