The Consul General at Shanghai ( Gauss ) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 15—1:18 p.m.]
284. Reference my 275, April 14, 10 a.m. regarding Japanese protests against Chinese language newspapers at Shanghai. The Japanese Consul General called on me yesterday evening and after disposing of the matter reported in my telegram number 282, April 15, 1 a.m. [p.m?]39 presented the matter of Chinese language newspapers claiming American status. He left with me a memorandum somewhat along the lines of that handed to the Chairman of the Municipal Council and summarized in my number 275. He repeatedly urged my cooperation in dealing with the matter.
I informed the Japanese Consul General that I had no administrative authority to control, censor or suppress any newspaper, that I could not confirm his allegations of which he presented no proof that any of the numerous Chinese language newspapers listed in his memorandum as claiming American status were in fact owned and published by Chinese interests, and that the only measures which could be taken officially by the American authorities in respect of American owned newspapers were those coming within the libel and slander statutes, and that I would translate and examine the clippings from Chinese newspapers which he left with me and if necessary refer them to the District Attorney of the United States Court for China to determine whether any action can properly be taken by him in that court in respect of any of published matter.
The Japanese Consul General continued to press for cooperation in the matter. I told him that I deprecated publication of false reports and of articles such as those glorifying political assassins but at the same time I had not failed to observe the vicious anti-foreign articles being published in Japanese owned or controlled Chinese newspapers and twice read to him an extract from one such article which declared that British and American Missions established in various parts of China are secret dens of prostitution, that the missionary schools serve as a medium for the enslavement of the Chinese people, that missionary hospitals are places where human beings are devoured or are killed without recourse to law as the doctors and the nurses are immune from legal punishment for their deliberate ill treatment of patients. He had nothing to say concerning this vicious attack on American missionary institutions but noted the name and date of the paper.[Page 28]
He asked whether Americans could not be stopped from lending their names for the incorporation of Chinese owned newspapers. I told him that I could not prevent the incorporation of companies under State laws and pointed out that a Japanese owned dairy at Shanghai had been incorporated under State law and, flying the American flag, had remained unmolested within the Chinese lines during hostilities around Shanghai, while American mission property had been occupied by the Japanese forces and in a number of cases remained under such unwarranted occupation.
The Secretary of the Municipal Council told me this morning that the municipal police propose to take stronger measures in dealing with Chinese language newspapers, many of which have undoubtedly published false reports, glorified political assassinations, published orders of the Kuomintang, magnified guerilla activities, et cetera. He stated that the police proposed to suspend publication of offending papers taking police measures if necessary to stop their presses but not seizing the property of the papers. He inquired what my attitude would be if such measures were taken by the police with respect of Chinese language newspapers claiming status as American corporations. I told him that while I sympathized with the police in their difficulty and was not disposed to be critical of reasonable police measures, however, maintaining peace and order in the settlement and of suppressing articles inciting to disorder, I could give no official reply other than that I would deal with each complaint, if any, made to me on its merits, taking occasion of course in all cases to ascertain whether there was a bona fide American interest involved.
Repeated to Peiping and Chungking.
Code text by mail to Tokyo.