Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President, Transmitted to Congress December 2, 1895, Part I
Mr. Denby to Mr. Olney .
Peking , August 3, 1895 . (Received Sept. 23.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of a dispatch addressed by me, this date, to the Tsung-li Yamên, with reference to the riots at Chengtu.
I have, etc.,
Mr. Denby to the Tsung-li Yamên .
Your Highness and Your Excellencies: I have the honor to call your attention to facts connected with the recent riots in Szechuan, which are completely established by proof made by persons who were present when the riots occurred.
First. There can be no doubt that the local officials are responsible for these disturbances.
This appears from the following written documents, among others: A proclamation issued by Li Taotai, general manager of foreign affairs, which repudiates the recent Berthemy convention; a proclamation issued by Chou Taotai, a Hunan man and chief of police for the two [Page 99] hsiens of the capital, wherein he states the horrible falsehood that foreigners decoy and kidnap small children; the proclamation of the Viceroy Liu, May 29 last, that foreigners caused trouble at the “Tuan yang” feast; placards which were put up, and not removed by the police, to the effect that foreign “barbarians” are hiring evil characters to kidnap small children, that they may extract oil from them for their use, and that the English, French, and Americans did not drive out the Japanese, and therefore they must be driven out.
Second. All these things were done or suffered to be done by the authorities. They all tended to excite and encourage the rioters.
Third. From proof in my possession, it also appears that the rioters assembled at the northeast corner of the city and had to go the entire length of the parade ground and past the soldiers’ camp to the first point of attack—the Canadian Methodist mission. No effort was made to stop them, and when the missionaries fled to the camp for protection they were driven out, and one lady was brutally kicked by a soldier.
Fourth. The Roman Catholic mission, only a stoned throw from the vice-regal Yamên, was boldly looted and demolished.
Fifth. Until the above-mentioned proclamations issued, the attitude of the people was friendly.
Sixth. There were thousands of soldiers stationed in and about the city, and there were three camps, with several hundred foreign-drilled troops in each, and they did not attempt to protect the foreigners.
Seventh. The destruction and looting at Chengtu extended over thirty-six hours, and during all this time the officials did nothing; and this notwithstanding the fact that there was a cessation of rioting for five hours.
Eighth. The soldiers and Yamên runners participated in the rioting.
Ninth. When at daylight the second day of the riots some missionaries went to the Yamên of the Hwa-yang Hsien magistrate for protection they were told he was asleep.
Tenth. The telegraph operator at Chengtu was forbidden to transmit messages for the missionaries, while at the same time messages were being sent, it is said by the viceroy, that a mutilated child had been found. It was ten days before the fate of the missionaries was known at Shanghai. Imagine the horror of the suspense!
Eleventh. The local officials did nothing to restore order until orders reached them from Peking.
Twelfth. It is apparent from the immediate occurrence of riots at many other places in Szechuan that there was concerted action between the capital and outlying towns. There is no doubt that, with the knowledge of the officials, a general plan was organized to drive out of the province all foreigners.
Thirteenth. These riots swept away in a few days the fruit of years of toil and sacrifice, done and endured with no other object except to do good to the Chinese people. They made homeless and wanderers 24 adult American citizens, and they subjected to violence, insult, and injury many helpless women and innocent children.
These facts are indisputable. It remains to discuss the remedies, if there can be remedies for the wrongs and sufferings above detailed.
I demand of the Government of China:
- The prompt, condign, and adequate punishment of the guilty officials, whatever their rank or station may be.
- That by the imperial proclamation the foreigners be permitted immediately to return to Szechuan to take and occupy their property, [Page 100] and that, until they can rebuild their homes, they be furnished by the local officials with suitable abiding places.
- That the viceroy of Szechuan be ordered to issue a proclamation that the foreigners have the right to reside and prosecute their work in that province.
- That an imperial proclamation issue rehearsing the right of missionaries to reside in and carry on their work in every part of China, and that copies of this proclamation be put up in every Yamên by the orders of the viceroys themselves.
- That when the demands for damages are presented, as they will be, they be promptly paid, and if possible, that they be paid out of the local treasuries, so that the local authorities may suffer primarily for their crimes.
- That the author of one of the placards mentioned, one Chou, who has been promoted to be acting taotai at Yachou, be immediately degraded and rendered incapable of ever holding office again.
- That a proper and suitable military force be kept, under stringent orders, at Chungking.
- That Li Taotai be kept at Chungking.
It is still uncertain what combined action the Western Powers will take on the questions involved in the Chingtu riots. That something open, bold, and aggressive must be done is apparent. Riots in which peaceable foreigners are periodically burnt out of house and home and subjected to untold sufferings must cease. If these things can occur the treaties and Imperial proclamations are waste paper.
China at this time owes it to herself, if not to the foreign powers, that riots should be made impossible.
I submit that, unless the Imperial Government is willing to admit that it is unable to control the provinces that are remote from the capital, the Western Powers must look to it for protection. I should exceedingly regret to have to conclude that the Imperial Government is powerless in Szechuan, but if facts and results show that this conclusion is well founded, then the Western Powers will be compelled to devise other means to protect the foreigners who, under the treaties and with the open and avowed consent of the Imperial Government, are residents of China.