Mr. Gareth Jones
whose savage murder roused the indignation of the
British community out East, had collected material for what promised to
be one of the best book ever written on the Pacific. The writer was
privileged hear Mr. Jones read extracts from his notes, and very
startling would his revelations have been, with all the interest of
Percy Fleming’s book, backed by a far deeper knowledge of political
Mr. Gareth Jones
was a man of really charming personality, and the
gift of infectious good spirits and happiness of disposition. He had an
amazingly clever hand with children, and could improvise fairy tales of
a kind that held the grown ups equally enthralled with their fancy and
wit. In his last adventure he must have taken such interest in his
captors and their ways, recognising fully that it was "all in the way of
business," and have sought to preserve genuinely friendly relations. He
would be the first to see their point of view. Some of us will find it
hard to believe that it was just a crime either of callousness or of
sudden panic. That is not quite the way of Chinese brigands. Other
captives have been held for months and then released safe and sound,
after many threats and perils. But often with no great personal feeling
against their captors.
THE HEART OF
POLITICS AND THE MURDER OF A
By R. T.
August 25th 1935
The callous murder of
Mr. Gareth Jones
sent a thrill of horror and indignation through
the British community out East. A good many of US in Hong Kong heard Mr.
Jones speak briefly and modesty, of his work with Mr. Lloyd
George, and most of us recognised in him one of the line of gallant
English adventurers, who take their lives in their hands, and go out
into the unknown and troubled places of the earth.
Long ago they were patriotic freebooters like Drake, then
they were explorers like Thomas Cook, than Missionaries like Livingtone.
To-day there the news seekers—Percy Fleming is just such
another—the aviators and the camera men who go unarmed to study tigers
and headsmen in the interests of science.
To those who read closely the
negotiations followed Mr. Jones’s capture, a sorry and sordid tale was
revealed, without one single relieving feature on any side. Very early
it became apparent that this young Englishman had been caught in
the swirl of troubled waters, and his chances of emerging alive
If there had been the least honesty generosity or
goodwill in any quarter concerned, his release would have been art easy
matter. Supposing for the moment that Mr. Gareth Jones was captured
by genuine brigands of that the evidence is not clear either way—what
the brigands wanted was money and arms. The trouble with dealing with
black mailers is always that when you fulfil your part of the bargain
they cheat, leaving you where you are and repeating the same demands
with ~increased threats, but Chinese brigands generally have a rough
honesty, and the probability is that if the ransom had been paid then
the captive would have been released.
There were two curious things about the incident.
The first was the release of Dr. Mueller. 1t is very seldom that
the captive is so re1eased. Of course the brigands, having their
Manchester Guardian and other works of reference, including files of
Hong Kong papers, may have known that in Mr. Jones they had a well
connected young man for whose safety every effort would be made, while
Dr. Mueller was a much less valuable captive. Somehow, one doubts this
astonishing prescience in simple minded brigands of the demilitarized
The second curious incident was the readiness of the
Chahar government to find the ransom any ransom apparently up to
$100,000. despite the fact that they had warned Mr. Jones that they
would not be responsible for his safety. And yet that same government,
while the negotiations were in progress, ~ truculently informing Nanking
that its Treasury empty, and nothing could be sent to the Central
Government of China. A clear hint there of several things, which need
not be labored. All who follow affairs in the North can read quite
Then there is the curiously vague and muddled story of a
Chahar official being actually sent.
The generous General Chu Teh-Chun , Chairman of the
Chahar government is supposed to have actually sent an emissary to the
bandits, with an installment of $100,000. Dr.Mueller reports, however,
that the bandits never received the money.
It is very curious, too, that no efforts to get the
ransom were made from the British side.’~ It is utterly unreasonable to
suppose that his father would not have been ready to help, that Mr.
Lloyd George, who evidently had a deep affection for him, and is one of
the most generous of men, would not have helped, and even the old
Foreign Office itself would have done something more than send an
assistant attaché to "do what he could. There is something strange here,
for normally kidapping is impelled by one reason only, namely money, and
in China the game is quite systematised and ought to have been played
without any difficulty. It is easy to theorise, all may have been honest
and above board, but it has not got that appearance.
Whether that is so or not, it is quite certain that
contact with Mr. Jones was lost, that the negotiations were bungled,
that he was taken over the Jehol border and passed on to another band.
These bandits proceeded to make impossible demands and then on being
attacked turned on him.
Renter gives a final "explanation of the crime". The
district magistrate who was conducting the negotiations in their final
stage, did not inform his next door colleague of what was going on. All
that that conscientious worthy knew was that the brigands were entering
his territory, so, very dutifully, he sent his troops to attack them.
This made the honest brigands doubt the sincerity of the negotiations,
so they took the straightforward course of murdering this young man who
was proving more of a liability than an asset.
What else could one expect them to do
Reuter of course knows that this is all arrant
nonsense as any of us, that a Chinese official keeps his post
by knowing exactly what is happening all round him, and playing the
correct moves on the complicated chessboard of Chinese political
intrigue. A false move, a lack of knowledge and he, and his family will
very soon be chucked out of the lucrative gold mine called public
office. In other words Reuter is saying that Mr. Jones was a victim of
It is easy to see that there is more to the incident than
the petty avarice of brigands, and the possible peculation of ransom
Already the Chinese are accusing the Manchukuo
authorities of deliberately obstructing the negotiations.
It is quite obvious that efforts were made to create
another international incident.
It is the object of the Chinese to show that the
demilitarised zone is a nest of brigandage in which, owing to Japanese
interference it is impossible to preserve any sort of security. They
wish also to show that in Manchukuo the same state of affairs exists,
and the so called efficiency and beneficence of Japanese government are
a fraud and a lie and conditions where they govern are worse than in
China. What better demonstration than the capture and murder of this
young Englishman, and all that went between.
Nor can the Japanese have been blind to the probable
reactions between England and China. Here on the very eve of the arrival
of the Leith Ross Mission is an incident that might rouse British
resentment, and contribute that personal factor which every now and then
cuts right across the dehumanised interplay of finance and commerce.
A firm will suddenly drop negotiations with people that
have committed a murder, and take an alternative offer. Who knows, a
real chance of putting a spoke in the British wheel.
Thus we have Colonel Tan Takahashi, the suave attaché, so
prominent in the recent Northern crisis— the very man who delivered an
ultimatum expiring at midnight, which was to have sealed the fate of
Peiping — offering his services.
It may all have been genuine, the efforts of the Charhar
Government and the good offices of the Japanese, but intrigue is so much
part and parcel of the East that no one believes that it was suddenly
suspended, and replaced by clear wells of sincerity.
What instruction there is in this incident in the rival
methods of Britain and China. Japan siezed Manchuria because a Japanese
staff officer travelling in the interior disappeared and was murdered.
Peiping and Tientsin were almost taken because a party of Japanese
officials were arrested and detained a few hours by some minor official
at Kalgan. The day before the news of the murder of Mr. Jones was
released, a single shot was fired at a junk with Japanese notables on
board, and flying the Japanese flag.
An incident was threatened, but as it happened none was
needed at the time. A few weeks ago, a silly article in a Chinese paper
at Shanghai precipitated another crisis; then a gunman’s crime aroused
England has tried the "gunboat policy", and has decided
that it has been found wanting.
At the time of writing there is talk of a protest at the
murder of Mr. Jones. If one is presented it will be very mild, and
apologetic. We shall make all the capital we can out of our "reason and
moderation," in a time of great difficulty to Nanking.
Sir Frederick Leith Ross. is on the way. Chinese
opinion must be placated. Because a rash young man is killed by brigands
that is no reason why a contract for machinery, or warships, or railway
equipment should go elsewhere. Commercial interests are involved, and
that means not only individual profits and directors fees, but work and
wages for British labour.
A nice pass England has reached when the livelihood of
decent Britons depends upon whether British statesmen can do the correct
grovel and spread the correct palm oil among Chinese "war lords" and
politicians, whose corruption and selfishness arc a bye-word among their
own people. A nice pass when we have to beg our bread from such folk.
In the eighteenth century Lord Macartney seeking to
further trade between great Britain and China refused to kow-tow to the
magnificent Emperor Kien Lung. In consequence his mission did not do all
that had been hoped.
England, however, got along quite well despite the fact
that he sacrificed pecuniary advantage to prestige.
We can imagine the instructions had he been sent out on
his mission to-day. "Kow-tow. Of course kow-tow. You’ll damn well eat
the dirt at the Emperor’s feet, and clean his boots with your tongue, or
stand on your head, or do anything else he talk you, if you can get in
return the concessions we want. You can get on with it, or get out".
Thus would speak that tightfisted old god Avarice, whom we worship so
blindly—that old god who steals the living wage from British
workmen with one hand, and fosters every hit of dirty business out East
with the other. If business between England and China were clean there
would be no political trouble.
It would pity in the end if all shady business were
turned down. Firms who have acted on that principle do well. Now and
then they lose a hit here and there, but in the end the clients worth
having come back to them. This was to a large extent the old, Victorian
way, though no one claims it was 100per cent clean, but today, we all
know the epithet which business has attracted to itself in its
scrounging this way and that.
The life of a gallant young Englishman, who had already
dared to expose the hell-black villainy of the Russian government in
concealing a famine, and dooming millions to death, rather than cease
export of grain, and call for foreign aid, was nothing to "commercial
interests at Home." He was a young fool who had run his head into the
noose, just as a generation ago ‘Chinese’ Gordon was an old fool and
further back still, Clive a disturber of the Peace, and of nabob
But the nasty, flabby, old gentlemen, who, for the sake
of their profits, have made such havoc if the world that statesmen must
perforce seek any kind of business, no matter how dirty, in order to
keep their people in work will one day be destroyed, and in England it
is young men of the type of Gareth Jones, who will accomplish the task.
He was pursuing that task out East, as he had pursued it in Russia, and
he was one of those who knew too much.
The story of one hand of brigands handing the captive
over to another group is yet another curious feature. This second group
is promptly extirpated except for one wounded man, who produces just the
story needed to give verisimilitude to this bald and unconvincing
Life is cheap out cast, and so are lies, and all that
matters arc money and face. However, even if we have to leave it at
Nanking’s bland assurances, at least let it be known that we know pretty
well what happened.
Since this was written Dr. Mueller has clinched our
contention. No warning was given on the contrary a permit was issue ,
and a route mapped out. No doubt what Dr Mueller says will be either
denied or disregarded, but once more it has been said, "It is expedient,
but the official pronouncement on the consequences are not
"believed to this day’.