129 Sir Henry Gullett, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr Masatoshi Akiyama, Japanese Consul-General in Sydney

Letter CANBERRA, 3 August 1939

I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 27th July last conveying, under instructions from the Japanese Government, an official report of the Japanese authorities on the question of the inspection and searching of British nationals at Tientsin. [1] I note that this report, which I observe was circulated to the Press on 26th July, refutes the allegation that the manner of searching undertaken by Japanese authorities at Tientsin in connection with the blockade of the British Concession is insulting to British nationals, and further that it categorically denies that in any case has a person been stripped of his or her clothing.

In taking note of these declarations, however, I am bound to say that they conflict plainly with information received by the Commonwealth Government at the time. Allowing for such inevitable colouring of the facts as might have been given in some newspaper reports, I feel that I have no alternative, in view of the categorical nature of this information and of its source, but to maintain my opinion that incidents of the kind to which you refer did actually occur, although I naturally do not desire to assert that they occurred with the entire knowledge and assent of the Japanese Government. You will allow me to recall to your mind- (1) that on 23rd June Lord Halifax [2] protested to the Japanese Ambassador in London [3] against what Mr Chamberlain [4] described as intolerable insults to British nationals at Tientsin;

(2) that on 27th June the British Consul-General at Tientsin [5] protested to the Japanese authorities against indignities, including stripping, which had been inflicted on British nationals passing through the blockade barrier, and offered to submit sworn statements by British subjects who had suffered indignities;

(3) that on 28th June Mr Chamberlain stated in the House of Commons that all British subjects who had passed through the barriers since the commencement of the blockade had been subjected to a rigorous search and that the number of instances in which British subjects had been compelled to strip was 15, including 1 woman.

I might refer also to the reported order given by the Commander of the Japanese forces at Tientsin on 27th June to the effect that foreigners were not to be subjected to indignities at the barriers and to General Homma's reported statement that the Japanese did not regard nudity as humiliating, both of which appear to me to imply an acknowledgment that indignities had in fact been inflicted on foreigners.

MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

1 Document 124.

2 U.K. Foreign Secretary.

3 Mamoru Shigemitsu.

4 U.K. Prime Minister.

5 E.G. Jamieson.

[AA: A981, JAPAN 101, ii]