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China (British Interests)

Volume 415: debated on Wednesday 31 October 1945

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16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what form of administration will now take the place of the previous International Settlement in Shanghai and other treaty ports; and what steps he is taking to protect British interests and property in China jeopardised by the absence of British personnel.

The transfer of the administration of the International Settlement at Shanghai and other areas previously controlled by foreign municipal bodies in China is now under consideration with the Chinese Government. No decision has yet been reached regarding the eventual forms of administration. As regards the second part of the Question, His Majesty's Ambassador at Chungking, following our representations on this subject, was informed on 27th September that the Chinese military headquarters had been asked to ensure that effective measures are taken to protect Allied property rights and interests in China.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask if he would further impress on the Chinese Government, through the Ambassador, the necessity for avoiding various incidents in which property of British nations has suffered considerably?

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many applications have been received from British business firms for permission to return to Shanghai; how many visas have been granted, and how many have actually arrived in Shanghai; and why special facilities have been granted by the Chinese Government to American business interests which have been denied to British firms.

About 60 applications to return to Shanghai have been received from representatives of British business firms. Ten British business men are known definitely to have arrived at Shanghai from Chungking. Steps are being taken to arrange early air and sea passages to China for the remainder of the applicants. The hon. Member is, no doubt, aware that there are also at Shanghai a large number of British subjects, the majority of them business men, who have been released from internment there. I do not yet know precisely how many visas have been granted for Shanghai. His Majesty's Ambassador at Chungking, however, has reported that no difficulties are now being met with in obtaining permits there for British business men to travel to Shanghai and elsewhere in liberated China. I have no reason to suppose that the discrimination alleged in the last part of the Question exists in fact.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of British business houses appear to have been requisitioned by the Chinese, and does he not think that every facility should be given to our people to go back and take up their business interests?

In the course of the war the British Government requisitioned a lot of businesses in London. One cannot get them all released in a moment.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if any agreement has yet been reached with regard to the future status, employment and pension rights of former British employees of the Shanghai municipality.

No, Sir, not yet. But His Majesty's Ambassador at Chungking has taken up with the Chinese Government the question of the latter's obligations under the terms of the Service Agreements of British employees of the former Shanghai Municipal Council.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these employees are now reaching this country, that they have nothing whatever on which to live and that unless the British Government accept the moral obligation that rests upon them to help these people they will become completely destitute?

I should have thought that my answer did accept the moral obligation to help.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements are being made to enable this country to play its part in the rehabililtation of China and territories until recently occupied by the Japanese and to ensure that proper facilities are being provided for the immediate opening up of the normal channels through which reciprocal trade would flow.

U.N.R.R.A., of which His Majesty's Government is a member making substantial contributions, is responsible for relief in China. At present His Majesty's Government is making the necessary arrangements for relief and rehabilitation supplies for the British territories in the Far East. The French and Dutch Governments are responsible for the provision of supplies to their areas. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to the hon. Member for Western Dorset (Major Digby) on 29th October.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of British Consulates now operating in China; and the number of British Trade Commissioners attached to the Consulates.

Six posts are at present operating, namely, Chungking, Shanghai, Kunming, Foochow, Kashgar and Tihwa. Canton and Tientsin are likely to reopen at any moment and it is also hoped to make arrangements for the early reopening of Tsingtao. British Trade Commissioners are appointed to British territory only. There is, however, a Commercial Counsellor at Chungking, and he has opened an office at Shanghai.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Americans have trade commissioners attached to their Consulates in the interior of China? Could we not follow suit so that we may be enabled to compete with the Americans?

I would like to have separate notice of a question of that sort, but I will say that the less we divide Consulates the better, in my view. I am in favour of developing the Consulate services on a high and efficient basis.