Mr. Wu to Mr. Adee .
Washington , August 20, 1902 .
Sir: Having received reliable reports from the Chinese consul-general in Habana, Cuba, I beg respectfully to bring to your attention, and through your Department to the attention of the President of the United States, the peculiar condition in which the Chinese have been left in the island of Cuba by the action taken by the military governor just before the authority of the United States was withdrawn.
Some months after the United States assumed the control of affairs in the island of Cuba, that is, on April 14, 1899, the Secretary of War, under the authority of the President, by order No. 13, Division of Customs and Insular Affairs, issued a decree declaring that the laws and regulations of the United States governing immigration were to be in effect in the territory under government by the military forces of the United States. In accordance with that order the immigration laws and regulations of the United States became effective and were put in force in the island of Cuba. But these laws and regulations did not include those of the United States relating to the immigration and exclusion of Chinese, and notwithstanding said order No. 13, the Chinese of all classes were freely admitted into Cuba during the entire period of the military control of the United States without restriction, as had been the case under the régime of the Spanish Government.
In such state the immigration of Chinese into Cuba continued until five days before the United States relinquished its control of the affairs of that island, when, on May 15, 1902, Gen. Leonard Wood, military governor of Cuba, issued an order declaring the reenactment and continued enforcement, pending such action as the Congress of Cuba might take thereon, of the laws relating to immigration, “which,” he says in his order, “have been in force in Cuba since April 14, 1899, by authority of the President’s order adopting and making effective in Cuba the provisions of the immigration laws of the United States.” This declaration or order is followed by what are termed “laws regulating immigration,” which are in substance the provisions of the laws and regulations of the United States relating to immigration. But at the end of this compilation there are added two sections (Sees. VII and VIII), which are not found in the immigration laws of the United States, and the provisions of which had not been enforced under order No. 13, of April 14, 1899, referred to by General Wood as that which he purposed to reenact. The language of these two sections bear evidence of haste or want of care and legal deliberation in their preparation, so that it is somewhat difficult to understand in all respects just how they are to be enforced. But their effect is to absolutely prohibit the immigration of Chinese of any class, except diplomatic officers.
The result of this action of General Wood, taken just on the eve of the surrender of American control, is to put in operation against the Chinese a law which had not before been in force in Cuba and which is much more severe and restrictive than the provisions of the Chinese-exclusion laws of the United States.
I can not believe that such was the deliberate intention of General Wood. I can not think that he could with premeditation sully the close [Page 264] of his career in Cuba by an act so unreasonable, so unjust, and so inhumane. From the manner in which the two sections are found in the publication in the Official Gazette of Habana I am inclined to believe that they have been inserted without his knowledge or without his realizing the effect they would have. Why should he, as one of the last of his official acts, decree such a harsh law, when during the four years of American rule in Cuba it had not been found necessary? And if at the last hour he had discovered that such provision was required, would he not as a prudent governor have deferred the subject for the action of the Cuban Congress which was immediately to convene? And even if he had at the last moment become convinced that some provision as to Chinese exclusion ought to be adopted by himself, notwithstanding for a half century this race had been free to come to Cuba, could he have surely reached the conclusion that a law should be enacted more severe and drastic than that in force in the United States? For these and other reasons which might be stated I have become satisfied that the military governor has taken this action unwittingly, or that he has been deceived in some way into an act which neither he nor his Government upon deliberation can approve.
The difficulty now is that the newly organized Government feels that, in view of the manner in which the order was adopted as one of the last acts of the American authorities, it would not be warranted in taking any steps to modify or repeal the enactment. As a consequence, the order is making hardships which could not have been anticipated. Chinese persons who left China without any notice of the order, relying upon the previous liberty of ingress, have been refused admittance into Cuba, notwithstanding the earnest appeals of the Chinese consul-general. No provision was made in the order for notice in advance of putting the prohibitory sections into effect. Hence hundreds of Chinese who have made the long journey are refused admittance, and must return to China, and among them are persons who under the existing laws would be admitted into the United States.
The action of General Wood in this matter is quite contrary to the practice of his own Government. When the United States found it desirable to restrict Chinese immigration, its Government consulted in a friendly spirit with the Government of China, and arranged by treaty the manner in which such restrictions should be enforced, thus respecting the dignity of the nation and saving the immigrants from undue hardships. But in the present case, the American military governor, without any consultation with the Chinese authorities, issued a cruel and arbitrary decree, inaugurating in Cuba a prohibitory law, where before no restriction had existed, and fastening upon the new Republic a system, which out of regard for the nation whose representative created it, it does not feel at liberty to repeal. This action, taken in disregard of diplomatic practice and international comity, has placed the young Republic at the outset of its existence in hostility to the Chinese Empire, and in such a manner that the unwise act can not be undone without the advice and consent of the Government of the United States.
It is not possible that General Wood could have consulted the President of the United States before issuing his decree, because his action is contrary to the policy and practice of the United States under similar circumstances, as I have indicated, and because the President would [Page 265] not approve of a decree which was more severe in its provisions than the laws of the United States.
The decree, as already mentioned, prohibits all Chinese immigration into Cuba, and yet the laws of the United States allow merchants, students, teachers, travelers for pleasure, etc., to come to this country. Neither could General Wood have received the approval of the President of his order, because the President has been distinguished during his public career for profound wisdom and a high sense of justice.
I regret that it has become my duty to enter in the Department of State the protest of my Government against this action of General Wood. But in doing so, I desire to ask you to be so kind as to bring the subject to the attention of the President. I have such confidence in his upright character and his hatred of injustice as to believe that if the matter is laid before him he will be able to devise some means to have it rectified. And although American control has been withdrawn in Cuba, his relations with the government of that island are so friendly and intimate that he will find a way to secure from that Government a modification or repeal of the decree which works so grievous a wrong to Chinese subjects, and is so much in disregard of the dignity of the Chinese Government.
For more convenient reference, I inclose herewith a copy of order No. 13, and of General Wood’s reenactment of it.