Mr. Denby to Mr. Gresham.
Peking, November 15, 1893. (Received December 23.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a translation of a communication from the Tsungli Yamên, on the subject of requiring travelers in China to report their movements to the local authorities found en route.
This paper sets forth a communication from the Taotai of Ching-chou, Ichang, and Shihnan, localities in the province of Hupeh, to the effect that travelers have failed to report to the subprefect their arrival and their intended movements, and that, in such cases, he should not be called upon to report them. He further states that “should trouble arise to those who have not reported their arrival, the responsibility of giving protection should not rest on the shoulders of officials of the departments or districts.”
The governor-general, in turn, observes that the “Taotai is actuated by a desire of giving due attention to the protection of foreigners traveling with passports and thereby averting any trouble or calamity.”[Page 242]
He states that “the departments and districts under his jurisdiction cover a vast area and the population is composed of both good and bad. If foreigners do not report to the local authorities, there will be no way of giving them ample protection.” He requests the Tsungli Yamên to arrange some plan of action with the foreign representatives.
The Tsungli Yamên observes that foreigners “should report to the local authorities of the place on their arrival, to the end that due protection may be accorded them.” The Yamên, therefore, requests me to communicate with my colleagues and have them consider the question presented and devises some feasible plan of action.
I have circulated a copy of the Chinese text, and an English translation thereof, among my colleagues for their consideration. Some time, however, will elapse before a conclusion is arrived at.
On the face of it, the requirement of reports from travelers arriving in any jurisdiction seems reasonable; nevertheless, it is by no means sure that my colleagues will consent to any new regulation in anywise burdening travelers. There are always parties of Russians, and sometimes of Englishmen, traveling over China, ostensibly engaged in scientific occupations. Although these parties are treated with courtesy by the Chinese officials, still they are viewed with some jealousy.
I will report the final action of the foreign representatives.
You are aware that American missionaries travel a great deal, either for pleasure or in search of new localities for permanent location. The passports issued to such persons by this legation usually specify that the intended travel will extend to three provinces. While I would not approve of a requirement that a route should be designated at the time of applying for a passport, because many circumstances might occur to render a change of route desirable, still there would seem to be no hardship in indicating to the authorities of the jurisdiction in which the travel begins the route proposed to be followed. On the traveler’s arrival at any departmental (chou) or district (hsien) city, he might be required to report his arrival to the local magistrate, as well as the route which he proposes to follow on his departure therefrom.
The traveler having given notice of his movements to the chief magistrates in the important cities, it would be their duty to notify all the subordinate officials, in the places through which the traveler would pass, of the fact that he was en route and there would be no excuse for a failure to afford protection.
As owing to the near approach of the closing of navigation, communication by post will be very slow, I beg to request that if my views are disapproved I be notified by wire.
It is proper to state that unless the proposed scheme is indorsed by the great powers I will hesitate to consent to it as affecting Americans alone.
I have, etc.,