Mr. Wu to Mr. Hay.
Washington , November 30, 1900 .
Sir: It is again my unpleasant duty to bring to your attention what seems to me to be another effort on the part of the subordinate authorities of the Treasury Department of the United States to distort the language and defeat the plain intent of the solemn treaty stipulations entered into between the United States and China. The present case is of such a character that I feel sure you will agree with me that it demands the attention of the President of the United States, and the exercise of his supreme authority to bring about a proper observation of these international stipulations.
The present case is one which involves the construction of Article II of the treaty of 1880, which became Article III of the treaty of 1894, and of section 6 of the act of Congress of July 5, 1884, passed, to give effect to the treaty. The treaty guarantees to Chinese subjects, being students, the right of coming to the United States and residing therein. To establish the right of the Chinese student to enter the United States, section 6 of the act of Congress requires that he should produce the certificate described therein, giving in detail his history and status, issued by the Chinese Government, and viséd or indorsed by the United States consul at the port of departure of the student; and the act makes it the duty of the United States consul, “before indorsing such certificate, to examine into the truth of the statement set forth in such certificate, and if he shall find upon examination [Page 60] that said or any of the statements therein contained are untrue, it shall be his duty to refuse to indorse the same.”
In accordance with the treaty and act of Congress, Yip Wah, a Chinese subject, arrived at San Francisco, and produced the student certificate above described. No allegation is made that the certificate was not in due form according to the act of Congress. But the student was refused admission into the United States by the collector of the port of San Francisco, and, upon appeal had to the Commissioner of Immigration, the decision of the collector was sustained, and unless the President shall interpose his authority Yip Wah will be compelled to return to China.
The grounds of the decision refusing the admission of this student are set forth in the letter of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to the collector of San Francisco, a copy of which has by the courtesy of the honorable Commissioner of Immigration been furnished me, and which I inclose for the information of the President and yourself. It appears from this decision that a Chinese subject can not establish his character as a student by showing, as an applicant for admission into the United States, that he “was simply an attendant upon the native schools of China,” and that he “intends to continue his studies here.” I have to confess, Mr. Secretary, that such a decision sounds strange to me, in view of the treaty and the law. I can not conceive of any other way in which a Chinese young man can establish his right of admission into the United States. But the decision makes clear what is the position of the Treasury Department on this point. It appears that the only evidence, other than the certificate, upon which the collector based his action was the statement of the applicant himself to the effect that he had been an attendant on the native schools of China and that he came to the United States to continue his studies, avowedly to acquire a profession, “for which he has thus far not even established a foundation, being entirely ignorant of the English language.” The construction thus given to the treaty and the law is that a Chinese subject in order to gain admission to the United States as a student must first acquire a knowledge of the English language. The further declaration of the applicant “that upon his return to China he does not intend to practice as a physician, but to work with his father,” who is engaged in business in Canton, can not property be held to affect his right of admission. This statement was made by a youth undergoing an inquisition by an official of whom he stood in awe, and even if taken in its fullest future application can not militate against his treaty right of entrance. No suspicion is thrown upon the sincerity of his intention to pursue his studies. Neither the treaty nor the law has to do with his pursuit after he leaves the United States and returns to China. The object of the law was to restrict the immigration of laborers, and plainly the facts show that the applicant does not belong to the laboring, but to an exempt, class.
I beg you, sir, to consider what effect this decision will have, if the President allows it to remain as the proper construction of the treaty and the law. It is in effect a requirement that all Chinese subjects, coming to the United States to pursue their studies or prepare for a profession must show that they possess a knowledge of the English language. You are well aware of the fact that for many centuries the Chinese Government has maintained an extensive system of general instruction and made it the basis and test of admission to the public [Page 61] service, so that the youth have great facilities for acquiring an education. But up to the present there are few schools in which the English language is taught. To acquire this knowledge most of the young Chinese would have to resort to some school established by the missionaries, which would be repugnant to the ideas of the great mass of the inhabitants, and, even if this prejudice could be overcome, the places where such schools are to be found are very few compared to the vast population of China. One of the leading objects of Chinese students in taking advantage of the treaty right to come to the United States is to acquire a knowledge of the language. In the past many hundreds of Chinese young men have been sent to this country, some of them by the Government, and it was understood with the cordial approval of the Government of the United States, and placed in school at private or Government expense, the great majority of whom had no knowledge of the English language. The law of the United States was the same then as now.
We read in the history of the human race that once a powerful sovereign made himself infamous by requiring a foreign people to make bricks without straw; that is, he ordered them to accomplish a certain task without affording them the proper facilities to execute his decree. The United States, it is understood, is now concerting with other great powers certain measures whereby the people of China may be induced to adopt such principles and methods of government society, as will make them more in harmony with the Western nations. And yet, if the decision which has given occasion for the present note is to be confirmed by the President, it effectually closes the doors of the institutions of learning in America to the great mass of Chinese students who desire to come to this country to learn its language and thereby study its governmental and social system, in order that on their return to their own country they may profit by this education.
I inclose with the letter of the Assistant Secretary a copy of a letter from the attorney in San Francisco of Yip Wah, containing an argument on his part to sustain the appeal, and to which also I ask your attention. With the foregoing statement I submit the case to you, feeling confident that the President, with the spirit of justice which has so distinguished his public life, will not allow this illiberal and unreasonable decision to stand.