293.1111/10–1453: Telegram

No. 143
The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Penfield) to the Department of State 1


1621. Embassy Despatch 1240 September 29 last paragraph.2 Telegram from British Mission Peiping received Foreign Office yesterday reports following re status civilian internees in China:

Indian Ambassador last spoke to Chinese Communists this subject three months ago and will reopen question when problem [Page 256] composition political conference settled. Swiss Minister discussed matter with Chinese Communists late May and intends reopen it appropriate occasion. He urges his intervention not be mentioned to US as he has suffered from publicity on previous occasions. Pakistan Ambassador spoke recently both to Foreign Minister and Vice Foreign Minister. Fonseka,3 head Ceylon trade delegation, also spoke Chinese Communists at Trevelyan’s request. Trevelyan himself will again raise matter with Minister Foreign Affairs in connection with other matters.
Swedish Ambassador had hoped for amnesty for internees on October 1 but this has not occurred. Pakistan Ambassador believes Chinese Communists awaiting results political conference. All feel US should avoid exerting pressure through publicity. Trevelyan agrees with his colleagues. Press full of atrocity stories directed against Americans and full blast Chinese Communist propaganda now daily directed against US. Publicity in US re foreigners under detention would do more harm than good.
Following figures show position US, UK, and Canadian nationals under detention: 54 arrested in 1951, 21 in 1952, and 12 in 1953 (of whom 2 released). 38 released in 1952 and 26 in 1953 (up to end of August). At end of 1952, 60 under detention of whom 21 under house arrest. Now 48 under detention of whom 5 under house arrest.
Impossible say what effect these diplomatic approaches have, but for whatever reasons situation has somewhat improved. There are indications Chinese Communists now more inclined expel Catholic missionaries without, or with only short-term, imprisonment. Reports in Hong Kong press of arrivals missionaries from mainland reveal that in first quarter this year 70 missionaries of all nationalities arrived of whom 60 previously under arrest. From June 1 through September 10 about 100 arrived Hong Kong of whom 50 previously under arrest. With few exceptions they all expelled from China. They mainly Catholics.
General consensus among friendly diplomats Peiping is to continue as at present pressing Chinese Communists on individual basis as occasion presents itself.

Embassy urgently requests Department respect view friendly diplomats Peiping and avoid publicity, especially specific references individual diplomats such as Swiss Minister.

  1. Repeated for information to Hong Kong.
  2. Despatch 1240, referring to a previous report that the Swedish, Swiss, Indian, and Pakistani Representatives in Peking had agreed in August to make informal, individual approaches to the Chinese authorities on behalf of foreign nationals under detention, stated that the new British Chargé in Peking, Humphrey Trevelyan, had reported on Sept. 2 that the Swedish Ambassador had raised the subject with Chou En-lai. Chou’s expression had “immediately darkened” and he had stated that the problem was an internal question of concern only to the Chinese authorities. (293.1111/9–2953)
  3. Susanta de Fonseka, Ceylonese Minister to Burma.