The Chinese Embassy in London has rendered itself disagreeably notorious by some very high-handed proceedings, including the kidnapping, in broad daylight, of a Chinese gentleman.  It appears that in November last the Chinese Government obtained information of a conspiracy to seize the Viceroy of Canton.  Official suspicion was aroused, with the result that all the leaders were arrested and decapitated, except one, named Sun Yat Sen, a medical man well known in Hong Kong.  He found his way to America, and subsequently came to London, taking up his quarters in the neighbourhood of Gray’s inn-road.  On Saturday, Oct. 10th, when near the Chinese embassy, he was treacherously seized by two Chinamen, and pushed inside the building, where he was detained.  He managed, however, to acquaint certain friends of his captivity, and news was communicated to Lord Salisbury, who promptly addressed a letter to the Chinese Minister, demanding the immediate release of Sun Yat Sen.  On Friday the Chinaman was set at liberty.

The British authorities were moved to such prompt and efficacious action in this matter by Dr. James Cantlie, whose statement was embodied in a document presented to the Foreign office.  Upon that statement a request was made to the Chinese Minister for an explanation.  This was given, and the Chinese official version represented Sun Yat Sen as a treasonable agitator, who had plotted against the Manchu dynasty, and was strongly suspected of carrying on negotiations for the purchase of arms for the use of rebellious Chinamen.  Though it was admitted that the prisoner had been shadowed it was strenuously denied that he had either been kidnapped or inveigled into the legation.  That was the explanation given by Sir Halliday Macartney to the Foreign office, and apparently he considered that it was quite ample for Sun Yat Sen’s detention at the legation.  The Foreign office did not agree with Sir Halliday, and told him so in terms that left no room for misapprehension.  Then it transpired that Sir Halliday Macartney had a grievance.  The Chinese legation was being watched by detectives in the service of the Government, and then, instead of keeping an eye upon the legation from a respectful distance, they actually stood upon the steps of the building.  The Foreign office proposed a very simple remedy for Sir Halliday’s grievance.  If he would give a written undertaking that no attempt would be made to remove the prisoner the detectives would be removed.  Sir Halliday replied that that was a matter upon which he must consult his excellency the ambassador, and there the question remained till Friday.

The Chinese Minister had been very ill for some time past, and confined to his bed.  But so urgent were the representations of the Foreign office considered that Sir Halliday Macartney thought it his duty to interview his chief in bed.  As the result of their conferences, cablegrams were sent to Pekin asking for instructions.  Sir Halliday Macartney then proceeded to the Foreign office, and was given clearly to understand that her Majesty’s Government would be satisfied with nothing short of the unconditional release of the prisoner.  Sir Halliday Macartney hurried back to Portland-place, and, proceeded direct to the room of the Minister, Kung Ta Jen.  The Minister and secretary were still engaged in anxious deliberation when a special Foreign office messenger arrived at the legation with a final and peremptory demand from the Secretary of State for the immediate release of the prisoner.  Then the legation yielded, Sun Yat Sen was summoned downstairs and informed that he was at liberty.  He was of course greatly relieved to hear the news.  He is a young man of 30 years of age, and looks, if anything, younger.  He is somewhat dark for a Chinaman, and, in fact, has more the appearance of a Japanese, though he is of rather slight build.  Sir Halliday then surrendered the captive to Chief Inspector Jarvis, of Scotland-yard, and he said he did so without prejudice, diplomatic or otherwise, to the Chinese legation.  Sun, with Inspector Jarvis and Dr. Cantlie, drove to Scotland-yard, where he made a statement to the police, and afterwards went away with his friends.

The release came about at a time when some very wild rumours of possible tortures inflicted on the prisoner were rife.  The action of the Foreign Office is the more commendable, as a judge in chambers is said to have declared that the Embassy, being by international courtesy “a portion of China,” the law would not intervene.

The visit of Mr. Jarvis, of Scotland-yard, to the Chinese legation, was not the light duty most people believed.  Mr. Jarvis had authority from the Home office to use full force, and had six men, fully armed, ready to enforce the surrender of Sun Yat Sen, if necessary.


So great was the crowd outside the Chinese Embassy when the prisoner was so unexpectedly released, that Sun Yat Sen had to leave by a back door.  Even then he was besieged by reporters.  Alongside some tall policemen he looked very diminutive.  The little man was very well, and in good spirits.  He answered questions readily.  At the outset he said he met a Chinaman in the street, who took him into the Embassy.  He continued:- “I was walking near the Chinese Embassy when I met one of my countrymen.  He asked me if I was Chinese or Japanese. I said, ‘I am Chinese.’ He asked me what my native province was, and I said it was Canton. Then he said, ‘You are a countryman of mine; I belong there also.’ He took a walk with me a short way, and then another Chinaman appeared.  He came from the building where I have been detained; at that time I did not know it was the Chinese Embassy.  When the second Chinaman appeared the first said, ‘This is a countryman of ours’ and I shook hands. He was not a Canton man; he did not speak my tongue – my dialect. We talked about different things.  They said that there were many Chinese in London, and some day we would all go and see them together.  The first Chinaman who conversed with me I afterwards found out was Tang.  After we had been talking a little while a third Chinaman came out and Tang went away.  As we walked slowly past the Embassy these two Chinamen asked me to go in, and before I could reply they pushed me within the door.  I looked for Tang but he was not there. The door was immediately shut, and the two then forced me upstairs.”

“They were big men,” said Sun Yat Sen, “I, as you see, am not big. They did not need to use much force; besides I did not resist – it would have been of no avail. They took me up several storeys – I think four – right to the top of the house, and put me in a room and locked the door. Immediately I got into the room a gentleman with a white beard – an Englishman – came in. I think they called him Macartney.”  The Correspondent: “Did he speak to you.”  Sun: “Yes,” he said “Here is China for you.” “I did not quite understand what that meant.” The Correspondent: “I suppose he meant you to understand that, being in the Embassy, you were practically on Chinese ground?” Sun: “Perhaps so; but I did not understand at the time.  The gentleman sat down and asked me if my name was Sun Wen. I replied that may name was Sun.” The Correspondent: “He asked for Sun Wen, but your name is Sun Yat Sen.”  Sun: “My name is Sun Wen also.  The gentleman went on to say that the Chinese Minister in America had telegraphed to say the Sun Wen was travelling to England by the Majestic. The gentleman then went away, telling me before he left that I should have to wait there 18 hours, till the Chinese Foreign office had been communicated with, and until a reply had been received from them. After he went I heard the door locked. I began to attempt to send some notes by the English waiters, but they all kept away.  Then I threw a paper out of the window.”

As he spoke he took up half a newspaper page across which, in a bold hand, the following words were written in ink:- “This will inform the public that I, Sun, was kidnapped by the Chinese legation for seven days, and shall be smuggled out of England into China for execution.  Whoever picks up this paper, please show it to Dr. James Cantlie, 46, Devonshire-street, for rescue.” On the back of the paper these words had also been written “Please read next side.”  “And that is what you wrote while you were a prisoner?”  “Yes, and I threw it out of the window.”  “What was the next thing of consequence that happened?”  “The next day Tang came up to me.  He said, ‘Yesterday I caught you as it was my duty, my official duty, but now I come up to speak to you as a friend.’  He then added ‘You had better confess that you are really Sun Wen.  It is no use denying it now, everything is settled.’ I replied, ‘I suppose everything is settled now, and it is either life or death.’ I also asked, ‘Can you tell me anything about what they are going to do with me?’ and I added, ‘I do not think they can extradite me away from England.’ ”  “What did he say to that?”  “He said ‘Oh, we are not going to do that.  We are going to tie you up and block your mouth, and carry you at night on board some ship that we have chartered.’ He said it would probably be a Glen line ship, as that company were friends of the gentleman named Macartney.  He also said ‘If we cannot smuggle you away we can kill you here, because this is China.’ ”  “How were you treated? Did they give you proper food?”  “I was given food when I asked for it. I mostly had bread and milk.” In further conversation Sun Yat Sen said at first he was afraid of poison, but this soon wore off.

Yesterday a Lloyd’s representative had a further interview with Sun Yat Sen at the house of Dr. Cantlie, 46, Devonshire-street, to whose exertions he greatly owes his release, and whose guest he now is.  There were a great many callers yesterday, who came to congratulate the young Chinese gentleman on his escape.

Sun Yat Sen is a gentleman 30 years of age, well built, but of short stature.  When introduced by Dr. Cantlie he had a pleasant smile on his face, and altogether seemed of a very affable disposition.  He expressed his willingness to give any information he could.  He said that when he first found himself a prisoner at the Chinese embassy, and was afterwards informed that there was a reward offered for him in China, and the question of sending there was under consideration, he then began to be alarmed.  He thought over the steps he should take to open up communication with some of his friends, as he fully believed that if they once got him to China again it meant certain death, and, probably torture, for the Chinese laws and punishments were very severe.

Though he still had his liberty he could not say he felt altogether safe, as he had been given to understand that he was only liberated without prejudice to any existing law.  His own private opinion was that the Chinese officials would move heaven and earth to get him re-arrested and taken to China.  He, however, felt greater security now, because the eyes of the British public had been opened to the matter, and he felt sufficient confidence in the justice of the English people to make him feel ensured that they would not allow him to be handed over to death without doing all they could to prevent such an issue.  Though it might be the Chinese Government, and though they might be Chinese men who first initiated measures for his capture, he was sorry to have to say that it was an English official who had been the cause of this arrest.  It was this man who had brought the whole thing about.  He thought that such an act done by an Englishman would do much to shake the confidence of the world in an Englishmen’s reputed love of justice.  He could not account for the white man acting as he had done.  He had not much fault to find with his food while at the Embassy, but he suffered tortures of suspense as to the fate which might befall him at the Embassy, and the danger of foul play.  It was a great relief to his mind when he found that his case and his address were known, for he then had hopes of release, and he felt sure that such a watch would be kept that it would not be very easy to get him out of the country by stealth.  Sun Yat Sen, in further conversation, declared that he contemplated taking legal proceedings himself, and was at present in communication with a high legal authority.  He concluded the interview by readily consenting to an artist of this journal making a sketch of him.


Yesterday a Lloyd’s reporter had an interview with Dr. Cantlie, who stated that when he first found that his friend was missing he thought the best means would be to give the case publicity through the Times; so he went to the office of that paper, and left there with the understanding that the Times would give full consideration to the case.  He was entirely at a loss for a reason to give for the manner in which they had acted at the Chinese Embassy.  “I can,” said Dr. Cantlie, “only say that I feel deeply grateful to Lord Salisbury for the prompt and spirited manner in which he acted, and which, I believe, has been the means of saving the life of my young friend.  I do not want at present to say exactly the full means that were taken by him to communicate with me, for enquiries are being made, and the persons who befriended him might lose their billets.  One thing, however – the legation are not on the right scent: and, another thing, they do not even know the sex he is indebted to for his liberty.  The legation, however, pretty quickly gave way when Lord Salisbury sent his imperative demand, and Inspector Jarvis, of Scotland-yard, went to execute it.  The case will not be allowed to rest where it is.”

A gentleman who was present as a friend of Dr. Cantlie, and who is a barrister, said that the legation had no doubt acted under an old law of James I, which, at the request of Russia, gave a French Embassy very great powers, and exonerated them from responsibility for their actions.  Now that the attention of the country had been called to the existence of such a dangerous statute, there would no doubt be a demand for its immediate repeal.

Dr. Cantlie was the promoter of the College of Medicine for Chinese, which was founded in London in 1887.  Dr. Mansen, who, too, has been exerting himself on Sun’s behalf, was the first dean of the college.

Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).