The May 4 Movement took place in 1919 when a large assemblage of university students in Peking took to the streets to protest Japan’s acquisition of territory in Shandong province as a result of the treaty of Versailles. This demonstration led to other movements in other cities in China against Japanese imperialism and The Peking government’s complicity. May 4 is also associated with an intellectual and literary movement which actually began around the turn of the century with figures such as Liang Qichao and which culminated with a movement in the 1920s to spread literacy through the use of the vernacular as opposed to the classical Chinese language.
This assemblage of newspaper articles presents the perspective from Shanghai . With the exception of the last article in the batch, which was written in 1946 looking back on the legacy of the May 4 Movement nearly 30 years later, all of these articles were published in Shanghai newspapers during the month of May 1919. As part of a celebration of the century mark of this movement, I will be posting other articles providing more information on how this movement unfolded over the next few months.
CHINA AND THE TREATY: SHANTUNG QUESTION PRESIDENT AND PREMIER IN CONSULTATION
(The Shanghai Times May 6, 1919)
TELEGRAM TO PARIS
(Eastern News Agency.)
Peking, May 5,
Premier Chien Nun-shun was summoned to the Presidential Office to discuss the Shantung problem. It was decided that China would not alter her original status. A telegram to that effect was sent to Lu Cheng-hsiang immediately afterwards.
Peking Students’ Outburst
The Peking Students’ Party who were aroused to anger by the Shantung problem, planned to bury Tsao Ju-ling's residence. While doing so Mr. Chiang Chung-hsiang was seriously injured. It is stated that three foreigners participated in this rowdyism.
South Manchuria Railway Co.
Tokyo, May 5.
A meeting of the shareholders of the South Manchuria Railway Company was held to-day, for the purpose of making new regulations. A decision was come to by which those shareholders who had received 35 per cent, per annum and not over 40 per cent., should participate in the second distribution.
Viscount Uchida Has Audience With Emperor
Viscount Uchida called on the Emperor to-day to report what had taken place at the Paris Peace Conference.
General Holworth was struck by Bolsheviks in Vladivostok on May 1, but fortunately he was not injured.
An Unpopular Loan
Peking, May 5.
The Central Government published a public loan statement regarding carrying 8 per cent interest per annum with Salt Surplus for security, but it has again been resisted by the Bankers.
DEMONSTRATION OF SHANGHAI STUDENTS: CAMPAIGN STARTED AGAINST CHINESE OFFICIALS WITH REFERENCE TO TSINGTAO
(The Shanghai Times May 8, 1919)
DEMONSTRATORS KEPT OUT OF SETTLEMENT
The trouble with the students in Peking found its echo here in Shanghai yesterday afternoon, when a large body of Chinese students from practically all the schools in Shanghai, many of which declared the day a special half holiday, made a demonstration, presumably for the release of the arrested students up north. If that had been the sole purpose of the students, one could have regarded it with a sympathetic eye, but there were several disturbing factors to be found, mainly at the meeting which was held at a recreation ground in Ziajao, near the West Gate, when a number of resolutions were passed and which were aimed at several high personages in Peking.
The demonstration began towards mid-day when some five hundred students besieged the German Club on the Bund in which the Peace Conference is being held. The Police, however, had strict orders not to permit any of the students to enter, and they were turned away. The main body then marched to the Public Recreation Club at Ziajao and there a meeting was held at which many speakers addressed the assembly. The audience being composed mainly of students, the adults had no difficulty in making the impression theyy wanted on their youthful minds. The meeting broke up with enthusiastic cheers and a long procession of probably 10,000 was then formed.
Petition To Peace Delegates
It was agreed to send deputies to interview the Peace Delegates and to present them with a petition in which the demonstrators asked the delegates to telegraph the delegates at Paris, not to sign the Peace Treaty giving away Tsingtao to Japan, and demanding the return of Shantung. The Paris delegates were also requested to inform the Conference here that if Tsingtao were given to Japan, they (the Chinese delegates) would withdraw from the Conference as the Italian delegates had done, and as the Japanese delegates had threatened to do.
Police Take Precaution
The French and the Municipal Police, in the meantime, had taken all precautions to prevent the demonstrators from creating disturbances, while the Municipal Police took the wise precaution of stationing a strong posse of men with a detachment of mounted Sikh lancers at this corner of the Bund and Avenue Edward VII. Students were forbidden to enter the Settlement in a group, while those who entered individually were forbidden to carry banners in their hands. The banners, which bore inflammatory inscriptions, wore confiscated by the Police, Tramcars were searched and any banners seen were taken away.
Telegrams To Powers
It was the intention of the students to make demonstrations at the French, British and American Consulates, but in view of the vigilance of the Police, this was not done. Instead telegrams will be sent to the Government of France, England and America informing them of the determination of the Chinese people to insist upon the return of Tsingtao to China.
Boycott Of Japanese Goods
Pamphlets were issued to pedestrians in the street, accusing certain Chinese politicians of being traitors to their country and with having sold it to Japan. Chinese merchants, we understand, have been circularised asking them all to boycott Japanese goods.
In the pamphlets and, as far as we could gather, in the speeches delivered at the meeting, little reference was made to the arrested students in Peking. The only time it was mentioned was when the meeting decided to send a telegram to Peking demanding their release.
In a couple of days, local residents will probably again be faced with a boycott of Japanese bank notes as the exchange shops and the Chinese banks have been requested not to accept as tender banknotes issued by the Japanese banks. Telegrams are also to be sent to the interior requesting them to join in the boycott. Needless to say, the exchange shops will be only too pleased to act on the suggestion, as it will mean a rich harvest of heavily discounted notes passing through their hands. It is to be hoped that the Police, Chambers of Commerce or some other recognised commercial institution, will issue a friendly intimation to the exchange shops that Japanese bank notes may be accepted without fear of loss, while the public should be advised that those notes are absolutely good. It is common knowledge that the Chinese are extremely panicky where finance is concerned.
What the result of the interview between the students’ deputies and the Chinese delegates was we have no knowledge. The most they can do is simply to act on the suggestion laid down in the petition, and send of the messages to Paris and to Peking.
It was extremely hot yesterday the temperature reminding one of the summer days. Many of the students had been marching for hours, and quite a number were laid up suffering prostration through the heat. A room at the public recreation ground war set aside for the treatment of those cases by Red Cross first aid men. At first sight on entering the place, one received the impression that the students had had an encounter with the military police, and spectators received a shock on entering the room and on seeing many of the exhausted demonstrators laid alongside the wall with their faces covered with handkerchiefs.
Telegrams were sent to Peking by influential Chinese bodies of Shanghai with reference to the arrested students and demanding their immediate release.
PEKING STUDENTS' DEMONSTRATION: KEENLY DISCUSSED
(The Shanghai Times May 8, 1919)
What Actually Happened At Mr. Tsao’s House
STATEMENT BY CABINET
Peking, May 5.
The students’ demonstration yesterday is still being keenly discussed at the Capital. Wild rumours continue to circulate. One report, wholly without foundation, says that Mr. Chang Tsung- hsiang was dragged out of a motorcar and stabbed and that he is now in a precarious condition. As a matter of fact he received a good drubbing and was passed out of Tsao Yu-lin's house over the heads of the crowd and into the street, but his condition is not serious.
Mr. Chang Still In Hospital
lt is generally believed that this will mark the end of Mr. Tsao Yu- lin’s and Chang Tsung-hsiang’s political careers. Mr. Chang is still in the Japanese hospital, Mr. Tsao left the Wagon-lits Hotel at 5 a.m. to-day and proceeded to the Japanese Legation. An official of that Legation Informed Reuter’s Agency that he was not there at noon, but another official stated earlier in the day that he was there. Mr. Tsao’s family went to Tientsin this morning. Mr. Tsao’s house was more severely damaged than was thought last night.
Japanese Legation’s View
The Japanese Legation appears to take a lenient view of the conduct of the students yesterday, for the opinion was expressed there to-day that the foreign correspondents were largely responsible for what had happened.
The Students’ Appeal
The students of Peking University yesterday evening appealed as a body to Chancellor Tsai Yuan-pei to secure the release of the students who were arrested by the police yesterday. Mr. Tsai promised to do his best to get them out on bail. It is understood that a number of very influential Chinese have offered to guarantee the future good behaviour of the students in the event of their being dealt with leniently. About twenty students were arrested but the ringleaders escaped. It is confidently asserted that those arrested took no active part in the maltreatment of Mr. Chang or the burning of Mr. Tsao’s house. Like Mr. Tsao Yu-lin, those principally interested made good their escape while astonished onlookers fell easily into the hands of the police.—Reuter.
Statement By Cabinet
Peking, May 6. Reuter’s Agency is officially requested to state that there is no truth in the report that the Cabinet has decided that the students arrested for participating in the burning of Tsao Yu-lin’s house should be bambooed. The Cabinet never intended to interfere in the matter beyond its jurisdiction.
Various student bodies passed the following resolutions this morning:
1.—To petition the President to release the students.
2.—To inform the Minister of Education that none of them would attend the schools and universities until the students were released.
3.—To send a circular telegram to the provinces requesting similar action there.
4.—To telegraph to the Delegation in Paris the students’ views on the Shantung question.
Tsao Yu-lin and the Minister of Education have resigned.
The sixteen members for Shantung have petitioned President Hsu Shih-chang to release the students.
It is understood that a mandate is about to be issued pointing out the unlawfulness of the actions of the students and ordering the legal trial of those arrested.—Reuter.
Grave Concern In Tokyo
Tokyo, May 6.
The anti-Japanese feeling culminating in the assault on Tsao Yu-lin and Chang Tsung-hsiang is causing the gravest concern here. The consensus of opinion among leading thinkers and friends of China is that if the anti-Japanese movement is not arrested in time, it can only result in national loss to China and one of its most direct effects will be to make more remote the realization of the abolition of extraterritorial rights in China.—Reuter.
Charge Against Reuter’s Agenti
Tokyo, May 6.
The Kokumin publishes a telegram from Peking, the source of which is not stated but which is couched in language usually denoting telegrams received at official quarters and given to the press for publication, charging Reuter’s representative in Peking with being “bought up” by anti- Japanese interests to disseminate false news, as published by the China Press and the North-China-Daily- News, with reference to the personal relation of Mr. Wellington Koo and Tsao Yu-lin, as the former is made to renounce being anti-Japanese owing to his engagement to Tsao Yu-lin’s third daughter.—Reuter.
Chinese Students In Tokyo
Tokyo, May 6. 3,300 Chinese students applied to use the Legation compound for a mass-meeting, but the application was refused.
Many threatening letters have been sent to the actor Mei Lang-fang by Chinese students but have not been allowed to reach him.
The police are very vigilant in preventing the preparations being made to hold an anti-Japanese demonstration being completed, and are dealing promptly with the offenders.— Reuter.
STUDENT FRACAS IN PEKING: CHINA AND KIAOCHAO
(The Shanghai Times May 6, 1919)
Students Incensed By Paris Peace Proceedings
Peking, May 4, 9 p.m.
3,000 students and returned students this afternoon, after passing a resolution against China signing the Treaty of Peace if Japan secured Kiaochao paraded through the Legation quarter and then visited Tsao Yu-lin’s house, which they set on fire. The students caught Chang Tsung-hsiang, who was in the house, and beat him up so severely that he had to be taken to hospital. They also destroyed several motor cars. The police at first did not interfere but later arrested several of the demonstrators. The house is still burning but has not been destroyed. Tsao Yu-lin escaped.
Escape To Legation Quarter
LATER.—11 p.m. When the paraders arrived Tsao Yu-lin, Chang Tsung-hsiang and one Japanese were together in the house, Tsao escaped with a servant. His family proceeded to the Legation quarter in a motor. The Legation police stopped the car for exceeding the speed limit, disarmed the four guards and arrested the chauffeur, Tsao and his family are now at the Wagon Lits Hotel.—Reuter.