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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August 10, 1962

STATEMENT OF THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT CONCERNING THE FLIGHT OF XINJIANG RESIDENTS TO THE SOVIET UNION AS DELIVERED TO COMRADE HUANG ZHEN BY MESYATSEV, CHARGé D’AFFAIRES AD INTERIM OF THE SOVIET EMBASSY IN CHINA (TRANSLATION)

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

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    The situation on the Xinjiang border has stabilized due to Soviet and Chinese actions, and the Soviet Union demands that China recognize the imbalance in efforts to halt the border crossings.
    "Statement of the Soviet Government concerning the Flight of Xinjiang Residents to the Soviet Union as Delivered to Comrade Huang Zhen by Mesyatsev, Chargé d’affaires Ad Interim of the Soviet Embassy in China (Translation)," August 10, 1962, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, PRC FMA 118-01767-01, 7-11. Translated by 7Brands. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118207
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[…]

Confidential File No. 409

[…]

Statement of the Soviet Government concerning the Flight of Xinjiang Residents to the Soviet Union as Delivered to Comrade Huang Zhen by Mesyatsev, Chargé d’affaires Ad Interim of the Soviet Embassy in China (Translation)

[Illegible brief handwritten note]

On 26 June, the Government of the Soviet Union received, via Comrade Ji Pengfei, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, the reply of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to our statements of 8 June and 11 June on the mass exodus of residents from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region across the border into Soviet territory.

First, we are pleased to note that the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on the border between the Soviet Union and China has significantly stabilized and that the illegal border crossing into Soviet territory by residents of the People’s Republic of China has largely ceased. This is primarily attributable to the actions taken by the Soviet Union. We also note that the Chinese authorities have recently taken some actions. As a result, the number of residents making their way to the border has declined and the crowds gathering on the Chinese side of the border have gradually dispersed.

At the same time, after studying the 26 June statement of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the Government of the Soviet Union feels that it can no longer remain silent on China’s continued attempts to blame, without any justification, the Soviet Union for the mass exodus of residents from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region across the border into Soviet territory. Such a biased attitude has prevented the Chinese comrades from judging the facts objectively and drawing correct conclusions. It is an undisputed fact that the tens of thousands of people unexpectedly crossed the Soviet-China border not from the Soviet side, but from the Chinese side. These people made preparations for border crossing not inside of Soviet territory but in Chinese territory. They made their way to the border not from the Soviet side of the border, but from the Chinese side of the border. They left for the border not under the eyes of the Soviet authorities, but under the eyes of the Chinese authorities. As such, the Chinese authorities should have been able to, and were supposed to, stop the mass exodus across the border. Isn’t this clear? Not to mention that the Chinese authorities failed to inform the Soviet authorities in a timely manner that a large number of Chinese residents were preparing to cross the border into the Soviet Union.

In all its statements, China not only fails to recognize all of this, but also attempts to accuse the Soviet Union of “failing to fulfill” its “obligations.” Moreover, the Chinese comrades made a rather strange interpretation of the extraordinary steps taken by the Soviet Government, such as closing the border. They asserted in a statement that “after China’s repeated demands, the Soviet Union has recently taken certain actions in the border area to block illegal border crossings…”

However, the facts are clear. Here, the problem does not lie with this or that “demand,” but with the procrastination of the Chinese authorities in taking effective steps to stop the growing exodus of Chinese residents. Under these circumstances, the Soviet Government, out of its friendly feelings towards China as a brother, decided to take swift action to prevent the situation from deteriorating, lest it would cause significant damage to the People’s Republic of China. The actions taken by the Soviet Government were aimed precisely at preventing the situation from evolving that way.

During his 11 June talk with the Soviet Ambassador, Comrade Zhang Hanfu said: “there are still some people who are attempting to cross the border, but explanations are conducted to dissuade them from doing so. If they still attempt to cross the border, the Soviet Union has the responsibility to block them, and if they make it to the other side of the border, the Soviet Union has the responsibility to hand them back to the Chinese authorities.” (What Comrade Hanfu actually said was that “although there are still a few people attempting to cross the border, on one hand, we will continue to dissuade them from doing so, while on the other hand, the Soviet Union has the responsibility to stop them from crossing the border, and if they do make it to the other side of the border, the Soviet Union has the responsibility to send them back.”) It seems that Comrade Zhang Hanfu’s viewpoints as described above did reflect China’s guidelines for this issue, because in fact when the mass exodus was underway, the Chinese authorities did not take any effective measures to stop it, but insisted that Soviet border defense troops deny passage to the fleeing people and use coercive methods to turn back those who had made it to the Soviet side of the border.

In all of its statements, the Government of the People’s Republic of China has repeatedly cited the Soviet border guards’ existing practices of stopping and sending back Chinese border crossers, and points out that these practices were followed in the past and that there is no reason not to continue to do so. However, how can the previous border situation be compared with the situation arising from this mass exodus? Obviously not. Information furnished by Soviet border defense agencies shows that over the past three years, on average, there has been one illegal border crossing into the Soviet Union every two days. During the same period of time, there were merely seven persons crossing the border into Chinese territory from the Soviet Union. In contrast, since the second half of April this year, there has been a mass exodus of residents from China to the Soviet Union, and on certain days during this period, thousands of people crossed the border.

This has resulted in a totally different situation. In this new situation, previous practices cannot be followed. Therefore, it is completely groundless to cite “the customary practices” and “the existing practices.”

It is equally groundless for China to cite the customary practices while proposing the use of coercive methods to send back border crossers. As we know, there has never been an incident similar to this mass exodus of tens of thousands of residents from the People’s Republic of China to the Soviet Union. Thus, no so-called customary practices are still relevant in this situation. The experience of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries proves that, when it comes to border rules, it is best to work out a mutually beneficial solution through agreements. With such agreements, misunderstandings can be eliminated.

Considering that the Chinese Government insisted in its 26 June statement that the Soviet Union hand back the people entering Soviet territory to the Chinese authorities, we’d like to clarify the issue again. If the residents of the People’s Republic of China who have entered Soviet territory can go back, naturally we will be pleased. The Soviet authorities’ past and present practice is to explain to the border crossers that they have done something unlawful and persuade them to go back to China. However, the Soviet authorities will never use coercive methods to send them back, as such methods contradict the Soviet legal system. The reason is that the people involved are workers, not criminals or reactionaries. We believe that for the long-term interests of our two nations, it is better to treat these people with patience and use persuasion, instead of using administrative orders on them.

In the spirit of cooperation, the Soviet Government has asked, more than once, for China to dispatch representatives to the Soviet Union to persuade the border crossers to return to China with the full assistance of the Soviet authorities (we’re willing to provide such assistance). However, China has repeatedly rejected this suggestion, and the Soviet Government can do nothing but express regret.

Lastly, the Soviet Government would like to reiterate that, as pointed out in the 8 June statement, it believes that the border between brotherly socialist nations should not be closed for an extended period of time. This measure cannot be permanent. Thus, we plan to instruct the relevant Soviet agencies in the coming days to abolish the extraordinary measure of closing the border with the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and restore the normal practices of border protection. We do this with the hope that the Government of the People’s Republic of China will take the necessary steps to ensure border security.

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