Mr. Denby to Mr. Olney.
Pekin, February 3, 1897. (Received March 27.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of a letter which I have received from a missionary residing at Tao Cheo, Kansuh, on the borders of Thibet. He therein asks for information on the question whether he can lawfully engage in “agriculture, stock raising, or trading, in order to self-support while laboring as a missionary among the Thibetan border tribes.”
This question is one of first impression in China. To my knowledge it has not been raised by the Chinese Government. The treaties originally permitted foreigners to reside at the open ports. They provided that the professors of the Christian religion should not be harassed or persecuted on account of their faith. Under the Berthemy convention the right to reside in the interior and to buy land for residential purposes was secured to missionaries. In no convention or treaty is anything said about the right to carry on by foreigners residing there any regular employment in the interior. In practice, however, it is a common thing for missionaries all over China to engage in many species of employments which are considered as aids or adjuncts to their religious and charitable work. They have printing establishments, book binderies, industrial schools, workshops, stores, dispensaries. They are doctors, colporteurs, newspaper correspondents; one of them living here lodges and boards strangers. All kinds of furniture is manufactured here and publicly sold by missionaries. Washing and sewing are done by the Catholic missionaries. In fact, there is complete tolerance of all [Page 106] kinds of work. It is understood, of course, that the profits of these various enterprises go to the general fund of the mission, and are used to promote religious purposes.
In answering Mr. Simpson, I have not been able to draw the line between pursuits thus permitted and agriculture, stock raising, or trading. Of course much would depend on the manner that such pursuits were carried on. The question of the right to engage in trade or commerce seems to depend entirely on tolerance. If the particular enterprise engaged in in any locality is not prohibited by the officials and is allowed to be prosecuted without objection, it would finally be sanctioned by usage, and might be entitled to protection of the treaty powers.
I have sent to Mr. Simpson an unofficial answer embodying the views above stated.
I have, etc.,