SMPA: May 30th Incident

Reports Made 1916-1929 – Strike Situation – Important Happenings, Meetings, Propaganda, Etc 1449

While the Shanghai Municipal Police Archives hold a wealth of records, the police reports tracking the aftermath of the May Thirtieth Incident caught my attention. While the file holds several different reports, they all hold a significant amount of detail in the records of meetings, demands and overall sentiment of the protestors indicating the police were either infiltrating meetings or getting detailed reports from informants. Before detailing the reports, some context of the incident helps clarify the importance of these documents.

The May 30th Incident occurred following nationalistic reorganization. In 1924, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members joined the Kuomingtang (KMT) to centralize nationalistic ambitions and mobilize support from a more diverse support base.[1] This reorganization saw several branches with the Department of Youth, Women, Labor, Peasants, Merchants, and Propaganda established, amassing more support for their larger ambitions of gaining Shanghai from the foreign powers who held it.[2] The anti-imperialist sentiment was called on to gain mobilize merchant support who long felt burdened by economic restrictions however, their own interests at times conflicted with the agenda of the KMT. [3] Students were recruited within KMT subsidized institutions like Shanghai University and Kwangtung University while legalized trade unions in 1924 Canton were meant to gain working-class support.[4]

In 1925, frequent disputes between a Japanese owned cotton mill (no. 8 on Naigai Wata Kaisha) occurred.[5] The conflict came on May 15th when a Japanese foreman shot dead a Chinese worker by the name of Ku Chen-hung.[6]  This event created mass outrage with a large memorial service and several arrests of students who were distributing pamphlets about the event.[7] The arrest intensified the tensions and following police shooting into a protesting crowd on May 30th, a widespread movement erupted. Different branches of merchants, workmen, students, etc. took part in an extended strike. Students created twelve demands which were passed on and included in the 17 demands of the Shanghai Federation of Merchants, Workers, and Students Organization on June 7th.[8] Demands like the end of martial law, the end of extraterritorial rights for foreigners and the release of all arrested protestors were evident in the first file.

In the file, the first document describes a meeting of the federation on June 9th with details of the meeting’s discussion. Police had knowledge of where strikers were posting fliers, where they were staying, future meeting places/times as well as the rhetoric and claims they were using to gain support. The third report details a subtle calm with more people returned to work indicating they believed the worst of the strike was over. However, it would not be fully settled until late August when most workmen returned back to the Japanese mills.[9] What is striking in these documents is the level of attention, awareness, and detail in these reports. The concern and vigilance demonstrated reflected the disruptive power strikes, especially one with such a wide-scale support base had for the entire city. Anti-foreign sentiment is very clear in the workmen’s demands and meetings as is the police’s concern and awareness towards the potential trouble these activities could cause them.



[1] Hung-Ting Ku, ‘Urban Mass Movement: The May Thirtieth Movement in Shanghai’, in Modern Asian Studies 13 (1979), p. 198

[2] Ibid., p. 198

[3] Ibid., p. 199

[4] Ibid., p. 199

[5] Ibid., p. 201

[6] Ibid., p. 201

[7] Ibid., p. 201

[8] Ibid., p. 207

[9] Ibid., p. 210

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