Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 311.]

Sir: On the 9th instant, much to the surprise of everyone, an imperial edict was published creating the office of minister superintendent of customs affairs, and placing all Chinese and foreigners employed in the various branches of the customs under its control. The office of associate minister superintendent was also created by the same edict, a copy of which I inclose.

T’ieh-liang, president of the board of revenue and a very active member of the army reorganization council, is appointed minister superintendent, and the associate minister is T’ang Shao-yi, junior assistant secretary of the Wai-wu Pu. Both are very closely associated with and devoted to the viceroy, Yuan Shih-k’ai. I inclose a note on the career of T’ieh-liang; T’ang Shao-yi is well known to the department.

I deemed the publication of this edict of sufficient importance to cable the substance to you. I confirm my cablegram as follows:a

The following morning I received your telegram reading as follows:a

Later in the day I called at the foreign office, and in conversation with T’ang Shao-yi, the newly appointed associate minister of customs affairs, I asked him whether the edict would not practically cancel the pledge given by China to Great Britain and Germany in 1896 and again in 1898 in connection with the two loans, each for [Page 282]£16,000,000, made it by the powers and guaranteed by the maritime customs revenues, and in each of which (article 7 in loan of 1896 and article 6 in loan of 1898) it was stipulated that until the entire amounts of these loans were paid off China would not alter in any way the present maritime customs administration. I also referred to the declarations of the Chinese Government on February 10, 1898, and in January, 1903, that a British subject would be appointed inspector-general of customs as long as British trade preponderated.

His excellency replied that the new management was created for facilitating the transaction of the business of the customs, hence the president of the board of revenue and an assistant minister from the office of foreign affairs were placed in charge of the new department.

The revenues of the customs were already completely hypothecated and could not and would not be touched; the provisions of all treaties, agreements, pledges, and protocols made by China would be observed, and there would be an Englishman as inspector-general of customs. The inspector-general being, he added, a servant of China, as such the Chinese Government has the right to control his actions. It was for this purpose, in part, that the new administration was being established.

The British and German Governments, and in a lesser degree the French and Russian, being particularly interested in the question of the undisturbed maintenance of the present maritime customs administration, the revenues of which are largely hypothecated to them for loans made in 1896 and 1898, will probably take early opportunities to ascertain the purpose of the Chinese Government in issuing this edict.

I confirm as follows my cablegram sent you on the 10th after seeing the inspector-general of customs and his excellency T’ang Shao-yi.a

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Inclosure 1—Translation.]

imperial edict.

T’ieh-liang, president of the board of revenue, is hereby appointed minister superintendent of customs affairs, and T’ang Shao-yi, junior vice-president of the board of foreign affairs, is appointed associate minister in the management of customs affairs. All Chinese and foreigners employed at the various customs are placed under their control.

Respect this.

[Inclosure 2.]

[Note on the career of T’ieh-liang, appointed by imperial edict of May 9, 1906, minister superintendent for customs affairs.]

T’ieh-liang is a Manchu of middle age who has risen very rapidly in the past three years.

In the spring of 1901 he was a director of the grand court of revision. In November, 1903, he became a vice-president of the board of revenue and at the same time was made a member of the army reorganization council on commission. In the spring of 1904 he visited Japan to study military methods, and in [Page 283]May, 1904, became vice-president of the board of war. In July of that year he went through the central provinces on a special mission to inspect the condition of the army, forts, arsenals, etc. On his return he submitted a long report, criticising severely the character of the troops and equipment of the provincial armies and making various recommendations.

A report on his mission was sent to the department on November 29, 1904, in dispatch No. 1755.

July 13, 1905, he became acting president of the board of war, and December 6, 1905, president of the board of revenue. On January 9, 1906, he was admitted to the grand council.

He does not cultivate the acquaintance of foreigners.

  1. Supra.
  2. Supra.
  3. Supra.