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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August 09, 1962


This document was made possible with support from the MacArthur Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation

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    Huang Zhen, Mesyastev, and Xu discuss the flight of Xinjiang residents to the Soviet Union and controversy surrounding the Soviet government's inconsistencies in dealing with illegal border crossings.
    "Minutes of Vice Minister Huang Zhen’s Talk with Nikolai Mesyatse, Chargé d’affaires Ad Interim of the Soviet Embassy in Beijing," August 09, 1962, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, PRC FMA 118-01767-01, 1-6. Translated by 7Brands.
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Minutes of Vice Minister Huang Zhen’s Talk with [Nikolai] Mesyatsev, Chargé d’affaires Ad Interim of the Soviet Embassy in Beijing

Statement of the Soviet Government concerning the Flight of Xinjiang Residents to the Soviet Union as Delivered by Mesyatsev

Time: 9 August 1962, 6:00 p.m.

Venue: Meeting Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Also Present: Xu Ming, Deputy Director, and Groux, First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy

Interpreter: Wang Gaoqing

Minutes Prepared: Li Debiao

Mesyatsev: I have been instructed to deliver a statement of the Soviet Government in reply to the Chinese Government’s 26 June statement.

(Vice Minister Huang [Zhen] asks the interpreter to read out a translation of the statement.) (See Ministry of Foreign Affairs File 409 for the text of the statement.)

Huang: I will report [this] to the government. After hearing the preliminary translation, I have a general idea of the statement. We need to further study the statement and will give you a reply after studying [it]. We’ve made our views, attitudes, and requests on this issue very clear in the notes and in the talks between Comrades Zhang Hanfu and Ji Pengfei and the Soviet Ambassador. I’m not going to repeat these here. Comrade Xu Ming, if you have any comments, please share with us.

Xu: After hearing the preliminary translation of the Soviet Government’s statement, I’d like to express a few personal views. I don’t think that the Soviet Government’s statement is completely satisfactory. In our statement, all our arguments are supported by facts. Our statement points out the severity of these issues. The statement handed [to us] by the Chargé d’affaires is totally inconsistent with the facts. Our two nations have long had customary practices in dealing with illegal border crossings. Why did you fail to follow these practices this time? After this incident of an illegal border crossing took place, our border defense agency notified you, but upon receiving our notification, your border guards simply said they would report it to higher authorities. This illegal border crossing incident happened over a period of time, on a long stretch of the border, in a decentralized and sporadic manner. It’s not that tens of thousands of people swarmed across the border at the same time. The Soviet border guards could have stopped them. However, many gaps were opened in the wire fence on the Soviet side of the border at that time. After most people had crossed over, a couple of gaps were still left there for more people to go over in twos and threes. You transported these people who crossed the border illegally to places hundreds of kilometers into Soviet territory, instead of sending them back to Chinese territory, which is just a couple of kilometers from the border. All of this shows that you’ve violated the long-established practices.

As the illegal border crossers remain the Soviet Union, of course the Soviet Union has the responsibility to send them back. This is a responsibility which the Soviet Union can’t shirk. It’s not right to put the blame on China. Our statement accords completely with the facts. The assertion that our statement is biased is utterly unfounded. These are my personal views. Vice Minister Huang has told you that we’ll study the Soviet Government’s statement before offering a reply.

Mesyatsev: Please allow me to say a few words. First, the views expressed by Comrade Xu Ming just now have already been reflected in the talks between Comrades Zhang Hanfu and Ji Pengfei and our Ambassador. Today, I’ve got something new from Comrade Xu Ming’s remarks. Comrade Xu Ming said that the Chinese Government’s statement points out the severity of the incident. The Soviet Union doesn’t deny this but thinks that the incident is unfortunate. Neither side wants things like that to happen. But it has happened, so we must take action in line with the nature of the friendly relations between our two nations and look at the actual circumstances in order to find the proper way to resolve the problem. My government has proposed these methods.

Just now Comrade Xu Ming asked why can’t you just follow the previous practices and send back the people who have crossed the border illegally. My government’s statement offers a direct answer to this question. In the past, incidents of illegal border crossing were isolated cases, but now tens of thousands of people are involved. These people are workers and farmers, and administrative measures can’t be used on them. We’re dealing with the issue according to our moral and legal standards. The Soviet Government suggests that China send officials to the Soviet Union to offer explanations to the border crossers and persuade them to come back to China, and the Soviet Government will provide assistance in this regard. Comrade Xu Ming has given an account of the incident, but I don’t understand why you would expect Soviet border defense agencies to take action in the first place. The border crossers made preparations to cross the border from the Chinese side of the border, and then crossed over Chinese territory into the Soviet Union. They passed through Chinese territory before entering Soviet territory. How do Soviet border defense agencies have anything to do with this in the first place? Shouldn’t we give receive them and absolutely provide any necessary assistance to those who have arrived on the border? This is a minimum humanitarian standard. As for other minor issues, I’m not going to talk about them, because I would only be repeating myself. I’m convinced that the arguments made by my government in the statement are valid and that the proposed solution is reasonable. There is another important point in the statement—the people of our two nations live and are living in friendship, and the border crossing incident will surely become a thing of the past.

Huang: Originally, I didn’t plan to speak, but after hearing the remarks of the Chargé d’affaires, I want to say a few words. The remarks of Comrade Chargé d’affaires are nothing more than a repetition of the views that he has previously expressed. There is nothing new. I quite appreciate Comrade Chargé d’affaires’ suggestion of adopting some methods in line with the friendly relations between our two nations. From the very beginning of the unfortunate incident, the Chinese Government has adopted such an attitude, but what the Soviet Union has done is nothing like this. Even today, we still hope that both nations will adopt practical measures to solve the problem so as to maintain our friendly relations. A lot of facts fully prove that, on this issue, the Soviet Union has a responsibility which it cannot shirk. Lastly, let me repeat that we’ll report the Soviet Government’s statement to our government and offer a reply after studying it.  

Xu: There are a few points I want to clarify. The Chargé d’affaires said that I had asked the Soviet side to take action first. This is not a correct understanding of my remarks. I was just saying that, when illegal border crossing was taking place, our border defense agency informed your border defense agency, but many gaps were opened in your wire fence, making illegal crossings easier. Comrade Chargé d’affaires, I’m willing to tell you something that happened in the past. In the past, when our nomadic herdsmen engaged in production activities near the wire fence on the Soviet side of the border, they would be chased away by gun-wielding Soviet border guards even before they reached the wire fence. They were not allowed to go near the fence. But this time, there were many gaps in your wire fence. Border crossing incidents happen from both sides. We provide board and lodging for border crossers from the Soviet Union. However, we do something different. After receiving the border crossers, we would inform your people and send them back to you, but you have taken the border crossers to your hinterland.

At present, those people are in the Soviet Union, and it is the bounden duty of the Soviet Union to send them back. This is very clear, and I don’t want to talk about the reasons. If the Soviet Union values its friendship with the 650 million Chinese people, it should comply with this justified demand of China.

Mesyatsev: First, I agree with Comrade Huang Zhen’s remarks that what both of us have talked about is something of the past. The incident has passed and therefore shouldn’t be argued about in one way or another. Comrade Xu Ming was trying to give a misrepresentation of the incident. Comrade Xu Ming claimed that Soviet border guards grabbed their weapons and wielded them at the Chinese herdsmen before they approached the wire fence on the Soviet side of the border. I have a fairly good understanding of the attitude of the Soviet people and Soviet border guards towards the Chinese people. Please believe me that they wouldn’t have adopted such an attitude towards peaceful Chinese herdsmen. This border crossing incident is massive in nature. There were men and women, young and old. Should weapons be used on workers and farmers of a friendly neighboring country? Should thousands of people be made to shed blood on the border? Moreover, the cause of the border crossing was unclear at that time. Comrade Xu Ming mentioned the return of border crossers in the past. In the past, there were only a few people crossing the border, and the problem was simple; both the Soviet Union and China did that. However, when a border crossing is massive in nature, this administrative method shouldn’t be taken. Rather, persuasion should be carried out. Therefore, the Soviet Union has requested for China, more than once, to persuade them to go back to China. Our government and people undoubtedly value friendship with the Chinese people. The reasonable suggestion made in the Soviet Government’s statement perfectly fits this objective. For the Soviet Government, there is no other interest or objective.

Huang: Let’s stop here for today.



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