Oral Answers to Questions — China (Situation)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th June 1949.

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Photo of Sir Ian Fraser Sir Ian Fraser , Lonsdale 12:00 am, 29th June 1949

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in China and the steps taken to safeguard the lives and property of British subjects.

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

Recent developments in the China situation have been fairly fully reported in the Press and there is not much that I would wish to add. The House will be aware that no foreign Government has yet entered into formal relations with the Communist authorities who, indeed, do not claim to have set up a government of national character.

In spite of this, and entirely without prejudice to the recognition question, we had hoped that our representatives in China would be able to maintain day-to-day contact with these authorities for the solution of common problems. Unfortunately, all such contacts have been declined. This situation obviously complicated the task of our Consular officers, whose duties include the safeguarding of local British interests. I think they are to be congratulated on the job they have done so far in very difficult circumstances.

Considerable discipline has been shown in the taking over of Shanghai; British lives and property escaped intact except for a certain amount of damage suffered by British residential property at the hands of Nationalist troops in the course of military operations.

Photo of Sir Ian Fraser Sir Ian Fraser , Lonsdale

Are there now adequate forces to enable the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that British lives and property will be safeguarded?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have no forces in Shanghai.

Photo of Sir Ian Fraser Sir Ian Fraser , Lonsdale

In China generally?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have no forces in China.

Photo of Lieut-Commander Joseph Braithwaite Lieut-Commander Joseph Braithwaite , Holderness

Would the right hon. Gentleman comment on the recent statement in the Press to the effect that naval personnel on board the "Amethyst" are again having difficulty in receiving their mails?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I would prefer a Question to be put down in regard to the "Amethyst" than that I should answer supplementaries about it.

Photo of Mr John Platts-Mills Mr John Platts-Mills , Finsbury

Was not the Question about the forces in China obviously referring to the forces of the Popular Armies, which are clearly able to protect all foreigners and all foreign property?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

That is another question.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

In connection with the safeguarding of British lives would not the right hon. Gentleman be a big fellow in the truest sense and safeguard them by diplomatic connection with the liberation forces? Is not that the best way?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I hope I am a big fellow in the true sense of the word. I have already told the House that I have asked our Consular officers to contact the authorities but the authorities refuse to speak to us. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) would send word on to his friends and tell them to be more sensible.