Oral Answers to Questions — Hong Kong (Japanese Barbarities).

– in the House of Commons on 10th March 1942.

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Photo of Mr John Wardlaw-Milne Mr John Wardlaw-Milne , Kidderminster

by Private Noticeasked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is yet in a position to make a statement regarding the treatment of military prisoners and civilians by the Japanese army at Hong Kong after the capitulation?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

Yes, Sir. Out of regard for the feelings of the many relations of the victims, His Majesty's Government have been unwilling to publish any accounts of Japanese atrocities at Hong Kong until these had been confirmed beyond any possibility of doubt. Unfortunately there is no longer room for doubt. His Majesty's Government are now in possession of statement by reliable eye-witnesses who succeeded in escaping from Hong Kong. Their testimony establishes the fact that the Japanese army at Hong Kong perpetrated against their helpless military prisoners and the civil population, without distinction of race or colour, the same kind of barbarities which aroused the horror of the civilised world at the time of the Nanking massacre of 1937.

It is known that 50 officers and men of the British Army were bound hand and foot and then bayoneted to death. It is known that 10 days after the capitulation wounded were still being collected from the hills and the Japanese were refusing permission to bury the dead. It is known that women, both Asiatic and European, were raped and murdered and that one entire Chinese district was declared a brothel, regardless of the status of the inhabitants. All the survivors of the garrison, including Indians, Chinese and Portuguese, have been herded into a camp consisting of wrecked huts without doors, windows, light or sanitation. By the end of January 150 cases of dysentery had occurred in the camp, but no drugs or medical facilities were supplied. The dead had to be buried in a corner of the camp. The Japanese guards are utterly callous, and the repeated requests of General Maltby, the General Officer Commanding, for an interview with the Japanese commander have been curtly refused. This presumably means that the Japanese high command have connived at the conduct of their forces. The Japanese Government stated at the end of February that the numbers of prisoners in Hong Kong were British 5,072, Canadian 1,689, Indian 5,829, others 357, total 10,947.

Most of the European residents, including some who are seriously ill, have been interned and, like the military prisoners, are being given only a little rice and water and occasional scraps of other food. There is some reason to believe that conditions have slightly improved recently, but the Japanese Government have refused their consent to the visit to Hong Kong of a representative of the Protecting Power and no permission has yet been granted for such a visit by the representative of the International Red Cross Committee. They have in fact announced that they require all foreign consuls to withdraw from all the territories they have invaded since the outbreak of war. It is clear that their treatment of prisoners and civilians will not bear independent investigation.

I have no information as to the conditions of our prisoners of war and civilians in Malaya. The only report available is a statement by the Japanese official news agency of 3rd March stating that 77,699 Chinese have been arrested and subjected to what is described as "a severe examination." It is not difficult to imagine what that entails.

It is most painful to have to make such a statement to the House. Two things will be clear from it, to the House, to the country and to the world. The Japanese claim that their forces are animated by a lofty code of chivalry, Bushido, is a nauseating hypocrisy. That is the first thing. The second is that the enemy must be utterly defeated. The House will agree with me that we can best express our sympathy with the victims of these appalling outrages by redoubling our efforts to ensure his utter and overwhelming defeat.

Photo of Mr John Wardlaw-Milne Mr John Wardlaw-Milne , Kidderminster

Arising out of this statement, terrible and horrible as it is, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will do everything possible to make the facts public, so that the people of this country will really at last know what they are up against and put their backs into the war?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

Naturally we had to be most careful about the facts before we made this statement. That is the only reason why it has not been made sooner. The Government felt that it would be wrong to make a statement unless they were absolutely convinced of the facts. That being so, in spite of the sufferings of the relatives, we felt it was our duty to make the truth known.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that not only the Emperor, but the Government and the whole Japanese people, are responsible for these atrocities, and not merely the army?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

Yes, Sir, that is certainly so.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Will special steps be taken by the B.B.C. to let the German and Italian people know how the New Order is working under their new Ally?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

The widest possible publicity in all languages will be given to these tragic facts.

Photo of Captain John McEwen Captain John McEwen , Berwickshire and Haddingtonshire

My right hon. Friend said that the Japanese Government have asked for the withdrawal of all foreign consuls from places they have occupied. Does that include German and Italian consuls?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I should like to have notice of that.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

Has anything been heard of the assurance given by the general in command of the Japanese troops to whom Singapore was surrendered that decent treatment would be extended to those who surrendered and that the rules of Bushido would be carried out?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I have said that I have received no definite reports from Malaya, but the Government cannot regard the position as satisfactory until Japan allows the Protecting Power and the International Red Cross to function.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

With reference to my right hon. Friend's answer that the whole of the Japanese nation is responsible, surely the general officer commanding the Japanese is personally responsible and should be held personally responsible by us? Will my right hon. Friend make it perfectly clear that we hold him personally responsible? Does this not show the futility of our capitulation of such a large body of prisoners?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

Obviously the Japanese general officer commanding is primarily responsible, but the Government are also responsible for not allowing the Protecting Power to do its duty.

Photo of Mr Edgar Granville Mr Edgar Granville , Eye

In view of the fact that General Bennett has arrived in Australia from Singapore, can my right hon. Friend give any information as to whether there is an adequate food supply for prisoners who are in Singapore?