Kidnapped in London/Chapter 7

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Kidnapped in London  (1897)  by Sun Yat-sen
Chapter VII: The Government Intervene



ON Monday, October 19th, Slater's office was again asked for detectives, and, when they came, they were posted with instructions to watch the Legation night and day.

At 12 noon, by appointment at the Foreign Office, Mr. Cantlie submitted his statement in writing. The Foreign Office were evidently anxious that some less official plan of release should be effected than by their active interference, in the hopes that international complications might be averted.

Moreover, the proofs of my detention were mere hearsay, and it was unwise to raise a question which seemed to be founded on an improbable statement. As a step in the evidence, enquiry was made at the "Glen" Line Office, and when it was found that a passage had been asked for, the Government then knew by direct evidence that the tale was not only true, but that actual steps for its execution had been carefully laid. From this moment the affair passed into Government hands, and my friends were relieved of their responsibility.

Six detectives were told off by Government for duty outside the Legation, and the police in the neighbourhood were made cognisant of the facts and apprised to be vigilant.

The police had, moreover, my photograph, which I had had taken in America in my European dress. To the eye of the foreigner, who has not travelled in China, all Chinese are alike, so that an ordinary photograph was not likely to be of much assistance; but in this photograph I wore a moustache and had my hair "European fashion."

No Chinaman wears a moustache until he has attained the "rank" of grandfather; but even in the country of early marriages, I, who have not yet attained the age of thirty, can scarcely aspire to the "distinction."

On Thursday, October 22nd, a writ of Habeas Corpus was made out against either the Legation or Sir Halliday Macartney, I know not which, but the Judge at the Old Bailey would not agree to the action, and it fell through.

On the afternoon of the same day a special correspondent of the Globe called at Mr. Cantlie's house and asked him if he knew anything about a Chinaman that had been kidnapped by the Chinese Legation. Well, he thought he did; what did the Globe know about it? The Doctor said he had given the information to the Times on Sunday, October 18th, five days before, and further supplemented it by additional information on Monday, October 19th, and that he felt bound to let the Times make it public first. However, Mr. Cantlie said, "Read over what you have written about the circumstance, and I will tell you if it is correct." The information the Globe had received proving correct, the Doctor endorsed it, but requested his name not to be mentioned.

Of course many persons were acquainted with the circumstances long before they appeared in print. Some two or three hundred people knew of my imprisonment by Tuesday morning, and it was a wonder that the ever eager correspondents did not know of it before Thursday afternoon. However, once it got wind there was no hushing the matter up, for from the moment the Globe published the startling news, there was no more peace at 46 Devonshire Street, W.

Within two hours after the issue of the fifth edition of the Globe, Mr. Cantlie was interviewed by a Central News and a Daily Mail reporter. He was too reticent to please them, but the main outlines were extracted from him.

The two searchers after truth next called at the Chinese Legation and asked to see Sun. They were met by the ever-ready and omnipresent Tang, who denied all knowledge of such a man. Tang was shown the report in the Globe, at which he laughed merrily and said the whole thing was a huge imposition. The Central News reporter, however, said it was no good denying it, and that if Sun was not given up, he might expect 10,000 men here to-morrow to pull the place about his ears. Nothing, however, moved Tang, and he lied harder than ever.

Sir Halliday Macartney was next unearthed at the Midland Hotel and interviewed. His statements are best gathered from the Press reports.


Sir Halliday Macartney, Counsellor of the Chinese Legation, visited the Foreign Office at 3.30 yesterday afternoon. In conversation with a press representative, Sir Halliday said: I am unable to give you any information about the man detained at the Legation, beyond what has already appeared in print. On being informed that the Foreign Office had just issued an announcement to the effect that Lord Salisbury had requested the Chinese Minister to release the prisoner, Sir Halliday admitted that this was so, and in answer to a further question as to what would be the result of the request, replied: "The man will be released, but this will be done strictly without prejudice to the rights of the Legation involved."

In course of a later conversation with a representative of the press, Sir Halliday Macartney said: Sun Yat Sen is not the name of the man whom we have in detention upstairs. We have no doubt of his real identity, and have been from time to time fully informed of all his movements since he set foot in England. He came of his own free will to the Legation, and was certainly not kidnapped or forced or inveigled into the premises. It is quite a usual thing for solitary Chinamen in London to call here to make casual inquiries, or to have a chat with a countryman. There appears, moreover, to be some ground for suspecting that this peculiar visitor, believing himself unknown, came with some idea of spying on us and getting some information. Nobody knew him by sight. When he called he got into conversation with one of our staff, and was afterwards introduced to me. We chatted for awhile, and some remarks he made led me after he had gone to suspect he might be the person we were having watched. These suspicions being confirmed, he was, on returning the following day, detained, and he is still under detention pending instructions from the Chinese Government.

Speaking on the international side of the matter, Sir Halliday said: The man is not a British, but a Chinese, subject. We contend that for certain purposes the Legation is Chinese territory, where the Chinese Minister alone has jurisdiction. If a Chinaman comes here voluntarily, and if there are charges or suspicions against him, we contend that no one outside has any right to interfere with his detention. It would be quite different if he were outside this building, for then he would be on British territory, and we could not arrest him without a warrant.

Answering further questions, Sir Halliday mentioned that the man was not treated like a prisoner, and every consideration had been paid to his comfort. Sir Halliday ridiculed the statement which has appeared that the captive might be subjected to torture or undue pressure. He added a statement that a letter of inquiry had been received from the Foreign Office on the subject, which would receive immediate attention.

The Central News says: Sir Halliday Macartney, on his return to the Chinese Legation from the Foreign Office, proceeded to the bedside of the Minister Kung Ta Jen, and explained to him that Lord Salisbury had insisted upon the release of Sun Yat Sen.

It is not for me to discuss the behaviour of Sir Halliday Macartney; I leave that to public opinion and to his own conscience. In his own mind, I have no doubt, he has reasons for his action; but they seem scarcely consistent with those of a sane man, let alone the importance of the position he occupies. I expect Tang expressed the position pretty exactly when he told me that "the Minister is but a figure-head here, Macartney is the ruler."

Various reports of an intended rescue crept into the newspapers. The following is an example:


In reference to the arrest of Sun Yat Sen, it has been ascertained that his friends had arranged a bold scheme to bring about his rescue. Had they not been definitely assured by the Foreign Office and Scotland Yard that no harm whatever should come to him, his rescue was to be effected by means of breaking the window of his room, and descending from the roof of No. 51 Portland Place, the residence of Viscount Powerscourt. His friends had succeeded in informing him of the plan they intended to pursue, and although information which was subsequently obtained pointed to the fact that Sun Yat Sen was being kept handcuffed, a promise of inside assistance in opening the window satisfied his friends of the feasibility of the plan. Indeed, so far matured was the scheme, that a cab was held in waiting to convey Sun Yat Sen to the home of a friend. By the prisoner's friends it is declared that Long, the interpreter at the Legation, was one of the Chinamen who actually decoyed Sun into the Legation, though he was invariably the most positive subsequently in denying that such a man had ever been inside the Legation walls. His friends declare that Sun was dressed in English clothes, and so far from his being a typical Oriental, when dressed according to Western fashion was invariably taken for an Englishman. He is declared to be a man of unbounded good nature and of the gentlest disposition in Hongkong, and the various places where he practised medicine he obtained a reputation for skill and benevolence towards the poor. He is believed to have been in a great extent the tool of the Canton conspirators, though he never hesitated to condemn the cruel and oppressive Government of the Viceroy of Canton. He is said to have journeyed throughout Canton in the interests of his society, and the plot itself is declared to be the most widespread and formidable since the present Emperor commenced to reign.

The real facts are these. Cole sent the following communication to Mr. Cantlie on October 19th, 1896: "I shall have a good opportunity to let Mr. Sun out on to the roof of the next house in Portland Place to-night. If you think it advisable, get permission from the occupants of the house to have someone waiting there to receive him. If I am to do it, find means to let me know." Mr. Cantlie went with this letter to Scotland Yard and requested that a constable be posted with himself on the roof of the house in question; but the Scotland Yard authorities, thinking it was an undignified proceeding, dissuaded him from his purpose, and gave it as their firm conviction that I should walk out by the front door in a day or two.