293.1111/3–2852: Telegram

No. 12
The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Department of State 1


4301. 1. On subject Commonwealth and US citizens under arrest China, Brit mission Peiping has submitted to FonOff following comprehensive and vigorous proposals re new representations and publicity:

Commonwealth wld address note to Vice Min FonAffs which wld be factual in tone and in considerable detail, covering all Amers and most Commonwealth citizens under arrest. Amers wld include all listed Hong Kong’s despatch 1839, March 4,2 except Mr. and Mrs. Bradshaw, Perkins, and Middleton, and adding Sjodin, McCabe (Depom Dec 29, 1951),2 and White.
At same time FonOff shld release statement to press saying that as there has been no improvement in situation since representations made in August,3 Lamb had, under instructions from FonOff and in accordance with request other govts concerned, brought to attention CPG all known cases of UK, Austral, Canadian and US natls reported under detention. Lamb suggests that if this expedient used details of worst cases shld be released in confidence [Page 22] to press, to be published as though obtained on press initiative. Press shld not be given handouts to publish.
Shortly afterwards some prominent American (Mrs. Roosevelt 4 suggested as very suitable person) might address open letter to Madame Sun Yat-sen,5 who has always been considered sensitive to humanitarian appeals. Lamb suggested letter might:
In general terms stress long detention of many individuals and refusal of authorities to reply to requests for info and communication.
Refer to hardships endured by those imprisoned. Some reliably reported chained. Permission not granted send those arrested at Peiping, including Miss Mills, comforts of any kind. Since husband arrested Mrs. Rickett has been confined to house and denied contact with friends outside, which represents mental as well as physical cruelty.
Develop general theme of human rights, stressing adverse impression created abroad and possibly give some of details mentioned in Lamb’s draft note (text follows by separate tel6), without indication official sources such info. Lamb considers that otherwise names should not be mentioned.
End with appeal to Madame Sun, to use her influence to remedy this deplorable state of affairs. If Mrs. Roosevelt signed letter, emphasis on human rights and even more on female aspect wld be appropriate, with particular reference to their exposure to much mental strain and physical hardship.
It might help if Mrs. Roosevelt’s appeal were reinforced by telegrams from other bodies, such as Brit Natl Union of Students to Chou En-lai, and labor unions to ACFL. In Lamb’s opinion it does not matter whether addressees received tels provided texts published in SEA and Chi papers in US.
Lamb feels it important for something of this sort to be done soon. He suggests target date in mid-April.

2. Considering pros and cons on publicity, Lamb states:

Argument that it might affect people still in China restrained publicity in past, but is no longer valid.
It hardly likely publicity wld affect atmosphere if armistice had been concluded, since any armistice wld depend on issues rather than treatment unfortunates under arrest.
Publicity wld have further advantages of providing counter blast to Chi germ warfare propaganda, exposing cruelty Chi regime and untruthfulness its propaganda. Statements (and tels) of course shld insofar as possible appear as spontaneous expressions of public opinion and not officially inspired.

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3. When Lamb asked Panikkar 7 whether publicity wld embarrass him re any representations he might make, he replied he of opinion time had come to resort to publicity. Panikkar has not yet had opportunity raise with Chou question of fon natls, as is his intention. He seemed doubtful when he might have appropriate interview to do so, and agreed that in circumstances Lamb need not delay any longer representations he was considering.

FonOff has called meeting Austral, Canadian, US and perhaps New Zealand reps for this afternoon to consider Lamb’s suggestions and coordinate proposals to govts. Emb will of course report fully.

  1. Repeated for information to Hong Kong and New Delhi.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. For information relating to the representations made on Sept. 1, 1951, by Lionel Lamb, the British Chargé in Peking, see telegrams 883, Aug. 15, and 1195, Sept. 4, Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vii, Part 2, pp. 1789 and 1796.
  5. Eleanor Roosevelt had most recently served as a U.S. Representative to the Sixth Session of the UN General Assembly.
  6. Widow of the leader of the Chinese revolution of 1911 and a vice chairman of the Central People’s Government Council, People’s Republic of China.
  7. Telegram 4302 from London, Mar. 28, not printed.
  8. K. M. Panikkar, Indian Ambassador in the People’s Republic of China to July 1952.