Mr. Wu to Mr. Hay.
Washington, November 28, 1901.
Sir: I am informed by the Chinese consul at Honolulu that the collector of customs at that port has refused permission to a Chinese student to land for the purpose of pursuing an education. The person so refused is reported to me to be a boy aged 15 years, Tong Tseng, who arrived at Honolulu by the steamer Gaelic on October 21, bearing with him a proper certificate, issued to him by the British Government of Hongkong and viséed by the United States consul-general at that port. His application for permission to land was rejected by the collector of Honolulu, as I am informed, not because his certificate was not properly made out or that he was not a student, but because when questioned the boy answered that his purpose in coming to Honolulu was to pursue his studies at the Chinese-American school. His friends and the American principal of the school interested themselves on his [Page 69]behalf and offered to give a guaranty or bond for the good faith of the boy, but their offer was refused by the collector, who stated that his instructions from the Treasury Department were that only those Chinese who intend to pursue some of the higher branches of study or for some particular profession could be admitted.
I am advised that an appeal has been taken to the Secretary of the Treasury, and that the boy is detailed at the quarantine station awaiting the Secretary’s decision. In view of this action it becomes my duty to ask your kind intervention with your honorable colleague, the Secretary of the Treasury, to the end that the treaty between the two Governments may not be violated in this case.
In examining the opinion of the Solicitor of the Treasury upon which the ruling of the collector is based I find that he defines a student to be “a person who (1) intends to pursue some of the higher branches of study, or one who (2) seeks to be fitted for some particular profession or occupation for which facilities of study are not afforded in his own country; one (3) for whose support and maintenance in this country, as a student, provision has been made, and who (4), upon completion of his studies, expects to return to China.” (Regulations relating to exclusion of Chinese, 1900, p. 35.)
May I venture the assertion that this definition with its various conditions reads very strangely in contrast with the simple phrase of the treaty? Suppose such a clause as that just quoted had been proposed for insertion in the treaty, can you, Mr. Secretary, for a moment believe that the Chinese negotiator would have accepted? I think you will agree with me that the officials of one of the parties to a treaty can not attach conditions to its stipulations which that party would not have proposed in the negotiations and which the other party would not have entertained.
If the construction given by the Treasury officials is to be maintained by your Government, you must admit that it is a virtual nullification of the treaty. Under this ruling a Chinese student can only be admitted to the United States to pursue a course of study for a profession or occupation “for which facilities of study are not afforded in his own country.” Any one at all familiar with China must know that there were in existence in that Empire when the treaty was made institutions of learning where instruction is given in English and Chinese in almost every branch of education—in medicine, in divinity, in international law and the science of government, in civil and mining engineering, in the science of navigation, in the military art, and in the other various branches of sciences and belles-lettres.
It is not a sufficient reason to give to the application of a Chinese student who comes to the United States to make himself more perfect in English to say that there are facilities in the place of his home, in China, or Hongkong, where he can learn this language. There are throughout the United States, in every city and town, teachers of the French and German languages, but I understand that it is a common practice among the well-to-do American families to send their children to France or Germany, at great expense, to acquire a more perfect knowledge of the tongue there spoken.
It would be just as proper and well founded a reason upon which to base the rejection of a Chinese student to enter the United States for the study of medicine or theology to say that there are institutions in China for such study.[Page 70]
The Solicitor of the Treasury must know that many centuries before the nations of northern Europe began to give attention to education the Chinese Empire was the seat of learning, with a literature and art which is even to-day the admiration of the western countries. And it is because of the thirst of the Chinese youth for knowledge that, with the modern facilities for travel and exchange of ideas, they seek admittance to the schools of this enlightened nation. It is the same spirit which has taken so many American youths to Paris, Berlin, and other seats of learning. No such line is drawn upon the young men of this country when they land in France or Germany.
Anyone at all conversant with the social conditions of China must know that there is a broad and well-marked distinction between the student and the laboring classes. The authorities who give the certificate and the consul who visés it can readily discriminate between them. But in the present case there is no question as to the genuineness of the certificate or the status of the applicant. The boy is to be rejected and sent back on his long journey because he could find the same facilities for education at his home that he seeks in Honolulu. Certainly, Mr. Secretary, you and your enlightened colleague, the Secretary of the Treasury, must admit that the reason for this decision is unjustifiable and in violation of the treaty. I hope, therefore, that, actuated by the spirit of fairness which has so distinguished your official conduct, you will lay the present case before your colleague and urge him to give to the appeal his personal attention, in the full assurance on my part that he will overrule the unreasonable decision of the collector at Honolulu.