The back story to the arrest of Jack Riley and to the operations of Farren's nightclub in the "badlands" is a complicated one, which Paul French illuminates in his book City of Devils while speculating on the reasons behind the gunning down of innocent victims in Farren's club (more on that event later). I won't spoil the story, but for those interested in learning more about this era in Shanghai's history, the best source is Fred Wakeman's book The Shanghai Badlands (1996), which followed his masterwork Policing Shanghai (1995). The "badlands" was the nickname of the area west of the International Settlement and French Concession which ended back then at Avenue Haig (now Huashan Road). In 1940, soon after taking the post of Shanghai Mayor under the Wang Jingwei government, Chen Gongbo (Kung-po below) declared that one of his goals was to "clean up" the badlands and rid Shanghai of some of the vices that had plagued the city including gambling. This was actually a long-term goal of the Guomindang. Chen had been the Minister of Industry in the 1930s under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek before "turning" to the dark side of the pro-Japanese "puppet" government in 1940. In declaring a war on vices, Chen seems to be carrying the torch of the GMD, but the article below makes it clear that this was a quixotic venture. I hope to complete an article soon and eventually to write a book on the story of Chen Gongbo and his "dark turn" in the 1940s.
Shanghai Gamblers Defy Mayor Chen’s “Clean-Up”
(China Weekly Review Nov 30 1940)
The controllers of Shanghai’s gambling and opium' combines apparently did not take seriously the declaration of Mayor Chen Kung-po that he was determined to eliminate vice and crime and establish a “clean” administration here that would include officials “who were not also engaged in business.” Mayor Chen’s declaration concerning the necessity of cleaning up Shanghai vice and establishing an honest municipal administration appeared in The Reviewon Nov. 23. His reference to officials “who also are engaged in business,” apparently concerned the operation of local gambling houses and opium-smoking divans by officials of “No. 76” Jessfield Road, who are connected with the local “Gestapo” headquarters of Nanking’s police department.
Evidence that Mayor Chen’s declaration was not taken seriously was provided by the opening of three new gambling houses, one of which was said to be as elaborate as the “Six Nations” resort on Ave. Haig. The houses were opened a few days after Mayor Chen’s inauguration. One is located at 275 Yu Yuen Road, another at 792 Yu Yuen Road and the third at No. 6 Tifeng Road (opposite the Yu Yuen Road Fire Station). The place at No. 792 is located only a short distance from the Shanghai residence and headquarters of Wang Ching- wei, also located on Yu Yuen Road. The other gambling house, known as “Hollywood,” which was adjacent to Wang Ching-wei’s headquarters, was closed when the more elaborate “Six Nations” resort was opened on Ave. Haig adjacent to the German Church and School and Nazi Center. All the new houses on Yu Yuen Road have opium divans, opening off the gambling rooms.
The “Hollywood” resort has — appropriately — been converted into a funeral parlor since the discontinuance of gambling and opium-smoking on the premises.
It was reported this week that the elaborately furnished gambling house at 43 Route Admiral Courbet in the French Concession had been unable to continue in operation due to opposition of the French police authorities. The name of the new resort is “East Asia Drama Research Bureau.” It was formally opened for business on Nov. 5, with Yuan Shu-ying, proprietor of the Kung Yih Central Opium Hong, as manager. The house is capitalized at $700,000 and it was reported in the Chinese papers that the proprietors had offered the French authorities the sum of $300,000 in “taxes” if a license to operate was forthcoming.
It was rumored that one of the reasons for the action of the French authorities in closing the place, was the receipt of a letter from an American organization calling attention to the fact that the opening of the resort would be strongly opposed by American residents of the Concession.
The re-opening of gambling and opium resorts on Yu Yuen Road, after having been closed for several weeks, indicates a possible intention on the part of the syndicate to close the “Six Nations” house on Ave. Haig and Farrens, Ltd., on Great Western Road in the vicinity of the American Columbia Country Club. Recently the Ta Tao police have been searching cars bound for Farrens, which indicates, according to rumor, a possible intention on the part of the Japanese and Chinese authorities to close both these resorts. Farrens, Ltd. was previously owned by Joe Farren, a German, and E. T. “Jack” Riley, an American, but Riley is now awaiting trial in the U. S. Court for China for operating a gambling house in violation of U. S. laws. Farrens, Ltd., is said to be under the direct protection of the Japanese military authorities, but the other resort on Ave. Haig is operated by Chinese and pays a heavy subsidy to the Nanking Government.
The new place at 792 Yu Yuen Road is unique in that the manager is a foreigner and the croupiers are of Russian nationality, although the resort is owned by Chinese, some of whom have close connections with the Nanking political-police headquarters at No. 76 Jessfield Road, only a short distance away.