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 14, 1895. (Received Sept. 26.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose a translation of a communication from the Tsung-li Yamên, in answer to my communication which I forwarded to you in dispatch No. 2295, of August 3, relating to the Szechuan riots.
The Yamên makes a weak defense of the local officials.
I have, etc.,
The Tsung-li Yamên to Mr. Denby.
Upon the 3d instant the prince and ministers had the honor to receive a communication from the minister of the United States wherein he called attention to facts connected with the recent riots in Szechuan, [Page 106] which are absolutely established by proof, etc. This communication has received due perusal by the Yamên. It is pointed out that there can be no doubt that the local officials are responsible for these disturbances. This appears from a proclamation issued by Li Taotai, general manager of foreign affairs, which repudiates the Berthemy convention, a proclamation issued by Chou Taotai, chief of police, wherein he states that foreigners deceive and kidnap small children.
With regard to the Berthemy convention, it may be stated that not only in Szechuan alone, but in other provinces the proclamations issued were not in conformity with the spirit of said convention. The French minister, Mr. Gerard, thereupon addressed the Yamên on the subject, and instructions were issued to the authorities of all the provinces to act accordingly in the issuance of proclamations, which is a matter of record. As to the proclamation by Chou, chief of police, in regard to foreigners deceiving and kidnapping small children, the Yamên some time ago telegraphed the viceroy of Szechuan to carefully investigate the matter. A report has been received by wire that the chief of police had not issued a proclamation in regard to foreigners deceiving and kidnapping small children, but that it was a false report circulated by the people.
It is further stated that placards were put up, and not removed by the police, to the effect that foreign barbarians are hiring evil characters to kidnap small children. Such placards, it may be stated, are abominable and detestable in the extreme. A telegram from the viceroy of Szechuan states that a long time ago these had been rigorously suppressed.
It is again stated that when the missionaries fled to the parade ground for protection from the soldiers they were driven out, and one lady was brutally kicked by a soldier; that the Roman Catholic mission, only a a stone’s throw from the viceregal Yamên, was boldly looted and demolished; that there were thousands of soldiers in and about the city, and they did not attempt to protect the foreigners. It may be pointed out that during the riots the people were crowded together, raging with fury, and the local authorities found that they could not afford proper protection under the existing state of affairs. As to the case of the soldier brutally kicking a woman, the offender, as a matter of course, should be severely punished according to law.
Again, it is further stated that 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, and with the knowledge of the officials a general plan was organized to drive out of the provinces all foreigners; that missionaries had been in Szechuan for many years, and that twenty-four adult Americans were made homeless, etc.
In regard to the destruction of missionary property, it may be stated that it was caused by outlaws suddenly and unexpectedly. How could it be right for the Szechuan people, for no reason, to drive foreigners out of the province. If the officials had knowledge of this beforehand they would certainly have adopted preventive measures to protect the missionaries. How could they allow people at their pleasure to cause trouble?
As to the points in the communication under acknowledgment that adequate punishment is demanded of the Government of China of the guilty officials, whatever their rank or station may be, and that the missionaries be permitted immediately to return to Szechuan to take and [Page 107] occupy their property; and that until they can rebuild their homes they be furnished by the local officials with suitable abiding places; and 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, etc. In the present instance the local authorities who failed to exert themselves in giving adequate protection to the missionaries are deserving of blame and open to censure, and punishment will be necessarily meted out to them.
As to the missionaries returning to Szechuan to rebuild their homes, and the issuance of proclamations by the viceroy that they have the right to reside and prosecute their work in that province, these are questions which the Yamên will bring to the notice of the viceroy of Szechuan so that he may examine into them and take action accordingly. In the matter of the payment for damages sustained, alluded to in the communication under review, and that they be paid out of the local treasuries or by the local authorities themselves, when the amount has been agreed upon, no matter in what way, China will necessarily pay the same, and it does not seem necessary to inquire who is to furnish the funds. As to the statement that Mr. Chou had been promoted to be acting taotai of Yachou, this, it may be stated, is not the case.
Again, in the matter of a suitable military force being kept at Chungking and that Li Taotai be kept at Chungking to protect foreigners, it may be stated that some time since the viceroy of Szechuan telegraphed orders to the Chungking brigade general to select able bodied men, who were to be kept under drill, to the end that due protection may be given to foreigners and to preserve order.
Li Taotai, of Chungking, had been summoned some time ago by the Emperor to come to Peking for audience, but a decree was issued and sent by wire ordering him to remain at his post for the present and look after the missionary cases; hence will not be transferred. It may be remarked that the wrong character was used in designating Li Taota’s name, the one used being the same sound as the proper one.
The Yamên will, in accordance with the request made, present the foregoing representations to the Emperor, and on receiving His Majesty’s edict will duly notify the minister of the United States.
In a word, the protection of missionaries and their establishments China regards as a matter of extreme importance; but as to the means to be devised in giving protection, the responsibility must still rest with the Chinese Government.