Mr. Denby to Mr. Olney.

No. 2613.]

Sir: I have the honor to make the following report touching the case of one Chiang Hsu-chu:

This man was one of the persons who was charged with exhuming a dead body and reburying it in the American missionary premises at Kiangyin. This act caused the riot at that place last spring.

The missionaries claim that Chiang is innocent, and that the confession made by him of his guilt was wrested by torture, and individual missionaries and the Presbyterian convention assembled at Shanghai have asked this legation to intercede in the man’s favor.

His guilt or innocence has no particular bearing on the matter now presented to your consideration, but it is proper to state that the Chinese magistrate who tried Chiang denies utterly that he was tortured, and reports officially that his confession was voluntary.

Chiang was tried at Kiangyin and found guilty and sentenced to be strangled to death. The 4th instant I received from the consul-general the following telegram:

Chiang (written Tsiang) now being held before criminal judge Soochow, in my district. Should I ask to be present?

I answered as follows the 4th instant:

If Tsiang’s trial concerns outrage on American, attend it.

Subsequent telegrams from the consul-general asked that orders be issued delaying the trial until he could arrive, and directing the provincial judge to allow him to be present.

I addressed the Yamên in writing on the subject, and on the 9th instant had a personal interview with them of nearly three hours’ duration, in which the whole matter was discussed.

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I claimed that under the third clause of section 3 of the Chefoo convention I had the right to be represented at the trial of Chiang. This clause reads as follows:

It is agreed that whenever a crime is committed affecting the person or property of a British subject, whether in the interior or at the open ports, the British minister shall be free to send officers to the spot to be present at the investigation.

The Yamên claimed that Chiang’s case went before the provincial judge for revision simply; that from him it would go to the board of punishments and thence to the Throne; that the “investigation” was had at Kiangyin; that Chiang was tried for the commission of a crime against Chinese law, and the Americans had no interest in the proposed revision; and they refused to allow the consul-general to be present.

I inclose a translation of a communication presenting the views of the Yamên more in detail. * * *

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 2613.—Translation.]

The Tsung-li Yamên to Mr. Denby.

Your Excellency: At the interview your excellency had at the Yamên on the 8th instant, you stated that under the Chefoo convention the United States consul-general had a right to go to Soochow to be present at the trial of the Kiangyin missionary case. The case was thoroughly discussed, but the Yamên could not carry out your excellency’s views. Your excellency held to the views you had expressed.

The Yamên now begs to explain to your excellency the reason why your request can not be entertained.

The Chefoo convention reads:

It is further understood that so long as the laws of the two countries differ from each other, there can be but one principle to guide judicial proceedings in mixed cases in China, namely, that the case is tried by the official of the defendant’s nationality merely attending to watch the proceedings in the interest of justice. If the officer so attending be dissatisfied with the proceedings, it will be in his power to protest against them in detail. The law administered will be the law of the nationality of the officer trying the case.

The intent of the above clause is to provide that in international cases the officials of both the plain tiffs’ and defendants’ nationality may attend court to watch the proceedings; but in this case Chiang Hsu-chu and the other criminals were guilty of exhuming a corpse, which they buried in the missionary premises for the purpose of causing trouble.

The local officials have pronounced judgment upon them in accordance with the statutes of China, and have not shown any bias or been ungrateful to the missionaries. The indemnity claimed has also been paid and the missionaries have agreed that the case be closed. The consul has also considered the case as settled and has made no objection to the terms of the settlement.

It must be borne in mind that the judgment rendered has been in accordance with the laws of China. The request of the missionaries that clemency be shown to Mr. Chiang can not be entertained by the Yamên. Mr. Chiang was a neighbor of the missionaries, and he, in league with Huan Chi-yao, arranged the plot to exhume the corpse of the female child of the family of Yuan and bury it in the rear courtyard of Mr. Haden’s missionary premises, their idea being to extort money from [Page 82] him. Their action resulted in the plundering and destruction of the missionary premises. It may be observed that there are cases of an international nature where the punishment of criminals would have been more severe, i. e., by decapitation. The local officials have decided this case in accordance with the statutes of China.

According to the statutes of China, the principal offender guilty of exhuming a corpse suffers the death penalty by decapitation; an accessory by strangulation.

Chiang Hsu-chu admitted that he had arranged a plot to injure the missionaries by burying the corpse in their compound, and the punishment pronounced that he should suffer death by strangulation is just and proper.

The missionaries now come forward and, relying upon one-sided statements made by the women of Chiang’s family, say that the magistrate had decided the case unjustly. The taotai at Chinkiang, Mr. Lu, tried the case and the prisoner admitted his guilt, as he did in the lower court. Judgment has therefore been pronounced upon him, and the urgent request that the consul-general should attend court and watch the proceedings is one which the Yamên can not comply with. This case being sent to the provincial judge merely means that that officer is to look over the evidence. It does not necessarily mean that a new trial is to take place. It is for the board of punishments to decide at the autumnal assize as to the real facts of the case and as to whether there should be a postponement of the execution. The provincial judge can not determine this question.

It makes no difference what may be the nature of a Chinese case, it must be determined by Chinese law, and there is no need for a consul to watch the proceedings. There would be no advantage to be derived from it. Hence, the Yamên sees no reason why the consul-general should be present to watch the proceedings.

The Yamên would observe that the best relations have always existed between the United States and China. The fourth article of the supplemental treaty between the United States and China is clear and explicit as to the question of mixed cases. It does not therefore appear necessary to quote the treaty between China and Great Britain.

The Yamên finds it difficult to comply with your excellency’s request and begs that you will inform the consul-general and the missionaries of its decision.