File No. 4857/18–21.

Chargé Fletcher to the Secretary of State .

No. 777.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith translation of a note recently received from the foreign office, inclosing copy of the regulations governing the importation of arms and ammunition into China.

This subject has assumed added importance in the eyes of the Chinese Government since the recent assassination of Governor En Ming by a revolutionary official, and a number of seizures have been made of arms illicitly imported.

The regulations met with objection of all of the foreign representatives, and at a meeting of the diplomatic body it was decided to address a note to the foreign office on the subject, translation of which I inclose.

The regulations seem objectionable to me in the following respects: No exception is made of arms and ammunition imported for the use of the legation guards and of the volunteer corps organized in the foreign settlements at Shanghai and Tientsin, nor of sporting rifles which visitors wishing to hunt or travel for pleasure or in the interest of science in China may wish to bring with them.

I have, etc.,

Henry P. Fletcher.
[Inclosure 1.—Translation.]

The Prince of Ch’ing to Minister Rockhill .

No. 339.]

Your Excellency: It is matter of record that my board has already transmitted to your excellency a copy of the regulations drawn up by the superintendency of customs governing the importation of arms and ammunition.

I have now received from the superintendency of customs a dispatch informing me that the former regulations have been altered and inclosing a copy of the revised form, with the request that I inform the ministers resident in Peking of the regulations as they stand at present. It becomes my duty, therefore, to write this dispatch acquainting your excellency with these facts and transmitting a copy of the revised regulations.

A necessary dispatch.

I avail, etc.,

[Seal of the Wai-wu Pu.]

Regulations for the importation of arms and ammunition.

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, to the effect that they shall examine the [Page 204] 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 reported to this superintendency, which will, in turn, forward the same to the board of military affairs, for its information.
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 two pieces of any one kind of implement of war, nor more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Any respectable foreign merchant landing in China who may have among his effects a revolver for defensive purposes will be permitted to land one 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 articles, upon discovery, shall be liable to seizure and confiscation. Any merchant residing in China and wishing to purchase arms or ammunition for hunting or protective purposes only shall, before the arrival of such goods at the port of entry, request the superintendent of customs at said port, through his consul, to issue a permit for the landing of such goods. Upon the arrival thereof and presentation of the permit to the customs authorities the goods may be landed. No permit for importation, however, shall be given to cover more than one hunting gun and 500 rounds of ammunition or under, or one revolver and not more than 200 rounds of ammunition.
Reputable foreign officials either coming to China or living therein may import arms for hunting or protection under the same conditions as merchants, with the difference that the restriction as to number is removed in their case. Declaration must be made of the number of firearms and amount of ammunition and the consul concerned must communicate with the superintendent of customs and obtain a landing permit. This being done the goods may be landed.
Should the superintendent of customs in any instance find upon examination that there were reasons why a permit should not be issued, he may reply to that effect to the consul.
The firearms which it is specified may be imported by foreign merchants and officials must be either shotguns for sporting purposes or small-size revolvers intended to be 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 taot’ai, such articles may be allowed entry. But foreigners importing arms for their own use may not use this provision for purposes of deceit.
When arms or ammunition are imported at any port of entry it shall be the duty of the superintendent of customs and the commissioner to record carefully the name and nationality, where he is from, the date of entry, and the number of pieces. The amount of duty levied 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 shipments have been made, and the amount of each one. At the end of the year this record shall be sent to this superintendency for inspection and comparison. (The commissioner of customs of each port will send his report to the inspector-general, who will forward it.)
All military firearms or ammunition not purchased by military or civil authorities shall by virtue of treaty stipulations be excluded from the country.
All goods imported under clauses II, III, and IV shall pay duty at the rate of 5 per cent ad valorem.
If it is desired to transship at Shanghai arms imported by foreign merchants or officials for sporting or protective purposes, the consul concerned must inform the customs authorities at Shanghai, with the name of the importer and the size of the consignment. The transshipment will then be permitted. On arrival at the port of destination, the importer must, through his consul, procure a landing permit; and if this is found satisfactory the landing will be permitted.

Issued by the superintendency of customs.

[Page 205]
[Inclosure 2.—Translation.]

The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps to the Prince of Ch’ing .

Your Highness: Under date of September 2, 1907, the Waiwu Pu transmitted the text of the new regulations for the importation of arms to all the legations.

Following the receipt of the communication, all the chiefs of mission felt obliged to examine and to discuss this question among themselves, and they have charged me, in my capacity as dean of the diplomatic corps, to inform your highness that the new regulations for the importation of arms and munitions, in the form in which they have been presented, can not be accepted by the representatives of the powers in China.

Your highness has already had occasion to observe, in the various responses that up to the present have been received by the Wai-wu Pu to the first note addressed to the legations upon this same subject, dated May 2, 1907, that many objections were raised to the regulations in question to which the Wai-wu Pu has not given full consideration.

The new regulations lack clearness in their phraseology, and even contain contradictions and may give rise, in their enforcement, to difficulties and discussions which it would be preferable to avoid.

On behalf of all the chiefs of mission, I have the honor to inform your highness that the diplomatic corps is disposed to enter, through my mediation, upon the discussion with the Imperial Government of the new provisions it wishes to make for the importation of arms and munitions into China.

It is superfluous to add that all the representatives of the powers in China are animated by an earnest desire to aid the Chinese Government in its task, and that they are ready to furnish, as far as possible, all guarantees that may be desired.

Until some satisfactory agreement shall have been reached, the diplomatic corps will be obliged if your highness will have the proper authorities return to the practice which has been in constant use until the present time, and which also may serve as a basis for future discussion.