123 Olive, William M.: Telegram

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

2646. ReConGentel 2641, repeated Nanking 1463, Peiping 191. On July 6 at 11:30 p. m. Vice Consul William Olive had been missing from Consulate General approximately 10½ hours. Inquiry various police stations by phone disclosed Olive jailed in Wayside police station. William J. Supple accompanied by M. E. Meyer, local stateless employee formerly employed Chinese police, arrived Wayside police station approximately 12:30 a. m. July 7. Refused permission see Olive and police superintendent contacted by telephone refused talk with us and instructed police clerk on night duty not to give us any information. We did learn Olive was brought Wayside police station because he had not obeyed traffic order to go to the other side of the street because of CC parade. Olive booked about 3:15 p. m. at Wayside. Night police clerk further advised that Olive was charged with assault and battery and breaking wristwatch of inspector in charge. Night police clerk advised us to return about 9 a. m. July 7 and that we could bring Olive food.

Approximately 8:30 a. m. July 7, before going to Wayside, Supple learned that an Indian guard, Boor Singh, employed Italian Consulate General, was detained at Wayside during time Olive was brought in. Approximately noon Boor Singh reported verbally to Meyer and Supple:

“Approximately 5 p. m. Olive brought into Wayside station, taken to a back room, approximately 10 minutes later Olive brought back to front counter. Olive argumentative, hit the counter with hands two or three times, several other police officers came in and one took hold of Olive’s arm to pull him away, Olive reached for the counter and pulled a letter box off the counter, splashing ink in his own face and over his clothes, also clothes of police officer, whereupon blows and kicks were exchanged between Olive and police officers, Olive being knocked to the floor and handcuffed after which police officers kicked and beat him. Olive kicked back and one police officer drew his gun threatening to shoot, Olive begged for mercy, was told to enter the detention cell with Boor Singh and two Chinese. Olive refused and [Page 1203] was picked up bodily and thrown into the cell. Olive later asked to use phone but police refused to listen. Boor Singh stated he was released approximately 6:15 p. m., Olive remaining in the cell.”95

Nine-thirty this morning Supple went with Meyer by car to Wayside district police station taking breakfast food. Chase for reasons close personal friendship with Olive (rather than official function) accompanied them with idea remaining background in car but available for possible consultation. Upon approaching entrance (Muir-head Road) to police station compound, they found two police and two military sentries at gate. As sentries made no sign objecting to car’s entrance and as Supple had brought in car without difficulty previous evening, they drove car into compound and Supple, Meyer entered building. Chase remained in car. Supple, Meyer approached duty police sergeant explaining politely they came from Consulate General with purpose inquire regarding welfare and charges against Olive and requesting if possible see officer in charge. Sergeant referred inquiry to near-by civilian dressed man, evidently political commissar, who answered curtly that they could see nobody. Sergeant repeated statement and refused further talk on ground no interpreter had been brought. When Meyer proved his ability speak Chinese, he said no recognition the American Consulate General and matter “ordinary” affair involving foreigners. Supple, Meyer then asked whether as private citizens they could give their food to Olive and referred to Mao Tze-tung’s eighth point regarding protection foreigners. Such approach proved no avail and Supple, Meyer then left building. As they were about to rejoin Chase in car, sentry indicated car would not be permitted to leave compound. Returning to building to inquire reason this action, Meyer met police officer (former acquaintance on Settlement police) who offered to get permission for car leave. At this point, however, order came, apparently from political commissar, summoning Chase, Supple, Meyer to “lecture” room. Here commissar informed them they had been guilty “serious” violation regulations in bringing car into compound rather than first alighting and approaching gate on foot to request permission enter. When Consulate General officers expressed regrets for having been unaware of such regulations of which sentries had given them no indication commissar proceeded harangue them at length in loud and most abusive, insulting manner. Main lines of his attack were:

Who do you think you are, behaving thus, having nerve to drive straight into compound? Do you take us for dance hall or public place? What was your idea of coming here in first place? (A simple reply they had come to inquire regarding Olive was ignored and followed by renewed tirade.)
We don’t recognize American Consul General and Americans no longer have any voice in China. During Kmt they could assume airs and attitudes, but that is all finished: All foreigners must now obey our laws or be punished—Consulate or no Consulate—which means nothing to us.
Do you realize how serious this offense is? We could shoot all of you right now for it. If you had attempted to drive away in car, our sentries should have shot you.
If you foreigners want to go back to your countries, so much the better. But first we shall find out if you are good or bad people (implication obvious). At several points Consulate General officers, with careful effort to speak with courtesy and restraint, and believing useless if not dangerous attempt argument, reiterated quietly their regret at having been unaware of violated regulations. Each such “apology” elicited renewed outburst of sarcastic sneers regarding “meaningless apologies” and further vituperation. Was clear that commissar, whether or not considering more extreme action, was determined do everything possible humiliate Consulate General officers before large crowd of police, military personnel, onlookers. More crowd gathered, more loud and aggressive he became. Consulate General officers were addressed as if criminals and kept continuously standing. He finally produced paper and told Chase, Supple, Meyer to write (1) personal history (with details former occupation), (2) explanatory statement why they had ventured visit police station, and (3) apology. He then said such statement would be sent police headquarters (“where full information to verify statement would be available”) to verify “whether good or bad people”. Said he assumed we wanted go back to car and asked whether would agree write such statements. If so, would be released from detention provided statements seemed to justify. Believing that nominal compliance under duress would satisfy police and be preferable to refusal and incarceration, Consulate General officers and Meyer wrote desired statements about 1½ pages each providing routine facts and statement to effect “it is to be regretted that through unawareness violated regulations”. Upon completion statements police constable took them to next room (to which commissar had meanwhile removed) and after about 3 minutes returned to state all three could leave in car. He added that hereafter should clearly realize that any matter for discussion with police should be taken up with Alien Affairs Office Bureau Public Safety and never with police station direct.

During period when written statements being prepared, there was apparently made from next room phone call to police headquarters concerning case. Chase, Supple feel headquarters probably directed prompt release and that without instructions they and Meyer would very likely still be detained.

After departure from police station it was learned from Consulate chauffeur who drove car that he also was quizzed by police. Among other things, they asked him which one of three Consulate General representatives was Consul General (to which he answered “none” [Page 1205] they are all employees) and stated that he was a bad man for working for the Consulate General.

Repeated Nanking 1468.

Department pass Peiping in its discretion.

  1. For summary of Mr. Olive’s account of affair, see telegram No. 2678, July 9, 7 p.m., from the Consul General at Shanghai, p. 1220.