Mr. Olney to Mr. Denby.

No. 1368.]

Dear Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 2606,1 of September 25 last, submitting for approval a draft of a note to the Tsung-li Yamên on the subject of the prevention of antiforeign riots in China.

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The Department has considered the draft, and has made some changes in it. The only one of importance is the omission of the fifth measure suggested by you for the prevention of antiforeign riots. This is done because the right of this Government to send a commission to any part of the Chinese Empire to investigate into riots in which American citizens had suffered in person or property is one we claim under existing treaties, and is not open to discussion.

I inclose the amended draft note for presentation to the Yamên.

I am, etc.,

Richard Olney.
[Inclosure in No. 1368.]


Your Highnesses and Your Excellencies: On the 21st day of September I had the honor, by direction of my Government, to address to you a communication to the effect that my Government was carefully considering the subject of antiforeign riots in China with the view to present to you thereafter another communication embodying its views on the measures that it desired to see adopted in order to prevent the occurrence of these lamentable outrages on foreign residents in China.

I have now the honor by order of my Government to lay before you the following observations:

It is unnecessary to dwell upon the necessity that rests upon China to secure the safety and security of foreigners residing in her borders. Such persons dwell in China by virtue of the treaties and conventions which recognize their right to remain in her territory. This right and the consequent duty of protection by the Government have been recognized in many Imperial edicts, and in many papers emanating from the Tsung-li Yamên. In spite, however, of the most solemn assurances given from time to time by the Imperial Government that foreigners in China would be protected, in spite of the issuance of passports, which on their face engage the Government to afford protection, there occur year after year, almost month after month, riots and massacres which startle and shock the civilized world.

It is desirable that the subject of riots should be treated as a whole, for while the incentive motives are not the same in all cases, the graver question of official responsibility which underlies most anti-foreign outbreaks in China is the principal subject of the concern of my Government.

The earnest desire of the United States Government, and it is confidently expected a like desire animates that of China, is to render the recurrence of outrages of this nature impossible by the adoption of such measures as experience has now shown best suited to that end.

The punishment of those who have actually participated in antiforeign riots has rarely been as prompt or as severe as it ought to have been; furthermore, the erroneous idea is entertained in China by many of the officials and the people generally that money payments for injuries suffered constitute a complete indemnity. Such, however, is not the case, for in addition to the reimbursement to the sufferers for losses actually sustained there remains that vindication of the law by the state, which is the only deterrent of crime.

Nor does the punishment of a few ringleaders satisfy justice. The official who deliberately stands by and fails to intervene to protect inno cent people, when he has at his disposition sufficient means to enable him to do so, is at least as guilty as the actual leader of a mob.

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The commission sent last year by my Government to investigate the antiforeign riots in Szechuan has stated its belief that—

The simplest and most efficacious policy is to insist that the local officials shall be held responsible, and punished, without further investigation than is necessary to establish the fact that such riots have occurred; for we are firmly convinced that, except in case of open rebellion, no such riots of any extent can take place if the local officials are energetic in the use of their influence and the means they have at their disposal.

Commander Newell, in his report of the Kutien riots, says that but for the inertness, inefficiency, and culpable negligence of certain provincial and other authorities, whom he mentions by name, the massacre of Hua-shan could have been prevented. While these statements may not be strictly applicable to every locality in China in which riots have occurred, they certainly do apply to every city and town of considerable importance. In such places there are soldiers and policemen sufficient and able to prevent rioting if they are commanded to do so.

Uprisings against the authorities occurring anywhere in China are promptly put down by the strong hand, and secret societies are held firmly in check, and the members thereof are often tried and executed. Incipient conspiracies are unearthed and instantly suppressed. In any offense against the Government the utmost vigilance, forethought, and strength are shown in dealing with the offenders.

Antiforeign riots are not sudden local uprisings of ignorant and malicious persons, as has sometimes been claimed, but all the proof shows that antiforeign rioting, pillage, and massacre are often arranged beforehand, without much, if any, effort at concealment, and it is difficult to avoid the belief that the local officials are cognizant of and at least tacitly approve of the felonious designs which are concocted within their immediate jurisdiction. It is perfectly evident, for instance, that there was last year a concerted action between the capital and the outlying towns in Szechuan, and that a general plan was organized to drive foreigners from that province, and that the officials had knowledge thereof.

From the foregoing remarks it is necessarily to be inferred that the main remedy for existing evils, and the surest preventive of riots, will be the holding of the local officials to a personal accountability for every outrage against foreigners that may occur in their jurisdiction. Such a line of conduct is in strict conformity with the established usage in China with regard to all crimes and misdemeanors other than such as concern foreigners.

My Government concludes that the best means to prevent the recurrence of antiforeign riots in China, as far as Americans are concerned, for whom alone it speaks, would be to adopt the following measures:

Recognition by the issuance of a formal declaration in an Imperial decree that American missionaries have the right to reside in the interior of China.
The declaration in such decree that American missionaries have the right to buy land in the interior of China; that they have all the privileges of the Berthemy Convention, as amended in 1895, and that deeds taken by them shall be in the name of the missionary society or church which buys the land, as that convention provides.
The determination of and formal declaration by China by Imperial decree to hold responsible and promptly punish not only all individuals or minor officials directly or remotely involved upon the occurrence of any riot whereby peaceable American citizens have been affected in person or property or injured in their established rights, but also the viceroy or governor of the province in which it has occurred, who is [Page 64] directly responsible to the Throne for the acts and omissions of every one of his subordinates, although his only fault may be ignorance.
That the punishment of officials found guilty of negligence in case of a riot, or of connivance with rioters, shall not be simply degradation from or deprivation of office, but that they shall be, in addition, rendered forever incapable of holding office, and shall also be punished by death, imprisonment, confiscation of property, banishment, or in some other manner under the laws of China in proportion to the enormity of their offense.
That the Imperial decrees embodying the above provisions shall be prominently put up and displayed in every Yamên in China.

In presenting the foregoing suggestions, it will naturally occur to you that my Government has not undertaken to go into detail regarding everything it thinks should be done after a riot has occurred, such, for example, as compensation to be paid for injuries, the right of American citizens to return to the scene of the riot and abide there, the ceremonies to be observed by the local officials in reinstating sufferers in their rights, and other matters which can be better discussed as occasion may require. But my Government has simply endeavored to outline the measures that it considers should be taken by China to prevent the riots. This is the great object that it has in view in addressing this communication to your highness and your excellencies, and having no doubt that the Government of China shares to the full its desire to prevent the recurrence of antiforeign riots it indulges the hope that early action will be taken by China on the lines indicated, so that the good relations existing between the two countries may be confirmed and strengthened.

  1. Not printed.