File No. 4857/8–10.

Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 610.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy in translation of a note dated May 2, received by this legation from His Imperial Highness Prince Ch’ing, president of the Wai-wu Pu, concerning the importation into China of arms and ammunition, together with the regulations governing the same, referred to therein.

Copies of this note have been sent to the consular officers in China for their information.

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.

The Prince of Ch’ing to Minister Rockhill.

Your Excellency: I have the honor to inform your excellency that I recently received a communication from the governor of Hunan saying that the superintendent of customs at Ch’angsha had reported the receipt from Mr. Lie-t’i, commissioner of customs, of the inspector-general’s proposed regulations for the importation of arms and ammunition by foreigners for their own use; he begged to state, however, that these regulations were difficult to enforce and asked that the governor communicate with my board requesting that consultation regarding this matter be held with the superintendency of customs and instructions issued for a reconsideration and revision of the said rules. The governor, realizing that this request was made with a view to regulating the use of firearms and guarding against malpractice, and also that the matter was still more important because the Yangtze region had lately been infested with thieves, requested my board to consider the matter and send him instructions.

Upon receipt of this communication, my board referred it at once to the superintendency of customs affairs for their consideration and action. On April 24 a reply was received as follows:

“The original regulations for the importation of arms and ammunition were drawn up by the customs taotai at Tientsin; they were then forwarded to us by the board of foreign affairs and by us transmitted to the inspector-general of customs to be put into operation. Now, however, it is apparent from the letter of the governor of Hunan that the regulations are unsatisfactory in certain particulars; the Yangtze region and the various seaports are infested with bad characters who have taken refuge there; and moreover it is constantly reported that both Chinese and foreigners are dealing extensively in firearms. There should be no objection then, so far as their strictness is concerned, to any protective measures adopted. The regulations drawn up by the Tientsin customs taot’ai have been annulled, and it has become our duty to draw up a new set of regulations in nine articles, and transmit the same to the various customs officials for their observance. Should we have occasion at any time to make further changes, it shall be our duty in order to give general satisfaction, to consider and deal with the matter as occasion may demand. We inclose herewith a copy of the new regulations for your information, which we request that you will send to the various foreign ministers in Peking.”

In accordance with the above I have the honor to send herewith a copy of the new regulations in nine articles referred to, which your excellency is requested to note and to direct to be observed.

[Seal of the Wai-wu Pu.]
[Page 200]

Regulations for the importation of arms and ammunition.

[Compiled by the superintendency of customs.]

When any Chinese military or other official authority shall purchase arms or ammunition, the proper tartar-general, viceroy, or governor, shall make out an invoice of the goods, giving the description, number, port of entry, and destination, and shall telegraph the same to the board of military affairs. After sanctioning the importation, said board shall telegraph both to the tartar-general, viceroy, or governor, authorizing the same, and to the superintendents of customs at the ports concerned, and to the inspector-general of customs, directing that instructions be issued to the commissioners of customs concerned, to the effect that they shall examine the permit, and, if the goods therein described correspond with the shipment, permission to land the same shall be granted. The date of entry shall be recorded and sent to the military or civil authority who made the purchase, and he in turn shall forward the same to the board of military affairs for their examination.
Foreign merchants may import arms and ammunition as samples of war material, but it shall be the duty of the Chinese military or other official for whom the samples are intended to communicate first with the superintendent of customs concerned, asking for a permit for entry. Then, when the goods have arrived at the port and the permit has been shown to the customs authorities, the goods may be landed. But single permits may not be issued to include more than 2 pieces of any one kind of implement of war nor for more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Foreign officials or merchants landing in China, who carry revolvers for defensive purposes, will be permitted to land 1 such firearm and not more than 200 rounds of ammunition. Upon arrival such goods must be declared to the customs official, who, after proper inspection, shall pass the same; but should any attempt at concealment be made, the article, upon discovery, shall be liable to seizure and confiscation.
Foreign officials or merchants residing in China, who wish to purchase arms or ammunition for hunting purposes or for self-defense, shall, before the arrival of such goods at the port of entry, request the superintendent of customs, through their consul, to issue a permit for the landing of such goods. Then, upon the arrival thereof and presentation of the permit to the customs authorities, permission to land the goods may be granted. Such permission shall be granted but once, however, to one man, and in the case of arms for hunting purposes, not more than 1 gun and 500 rounds of ammunition will be admitted, or 1 revolver and 200 rounds of ammunition.
Fees will be collected for these permits according to the same rules as have been made for other hu-chao’s. And should the superintendent of customs, upon examination, find that there are reasons why the permit should not be issued, he may reply to that effect to the consul. In that case any fees paid by the importer will be refunded.
(Articles VI and VII will follow.) As for any other arms and ammunition, except such as is imported for the use of Chinese military or civil authorities, the old treaty regulations will still hold and all importation shall be prohibited.
By “arms imported for hunting purposes or for self-defense” is meant shotguns and short revolvers that are carried on the person. As for the others—implements of war—these must be goods sent as samples to Chinese military or other authorities, or else goods actually purchased by them. When there is clear proof of this and it has been accepted by the customs taotai, such articles may be allowed entry. But foreigners importing arms for their own use may not use this provision for purposes of delusion.
When arms or ammunition are imported at any port of entry it shall be the duty of the superintendent and the commissioner of customs to record carefully the name and the nationality of the importer, the date of entry, and the number of pieces. The amount of duty and fees paid shall also be registered. A record shall be kept of all such shipments imported for the use of Chinese military and civil authorities, showing what garrison or what bureau purchased the goods, what tartar-general, viceroy, or governor issued the permit, the number of times such shipment has been imported, and the amount of each [Page 201] one. At the end of the year this record shall be sent to the authorities concerned for their verification.
All arms and ammunition allowed entry under Articles II and IV shall be required to pay a duty of 5 per cent ad valorem.