File No. 4002/45–46.

Chargé Fletcher to the Secretary of State.

No. 851.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose copy of a note received to-day from the Wai-wu Pu, referring to inauguration by Russia of the municipal council at Harbin, China’s protest against the same, the Russian minister’s reply to the protest, and quoting at length the rejoinder of the Wai-wu Pu.

I have, etc.,

Henry P. Fletcher.
[Page 203]

The Prince of Ch’ing to Chargé Fletcher.

No. 392.]

Your Excellency: The various foreign ministers in Peking have called at the office of the board of foreign affairs on different occasions oi Jate to inquire about the municipal administration of Harbin by the railway authorities, and I therefore have the honor to transmit to your excellency the following exposition of this affair:

In the twelfth moon of last year (January, 1908) a telegram was received from the viceroy of Manchuria to the effect that a municipal council had been established by Russia for the administration of the railway territory at Harbin; that the members of this council were to be elected; and that the various foreign consuls in Harbin were to be given the right to vote.

Upon receipt of this telegram my board sent a, dispatch to his excellency, Mr. Pokotilow, the Russian minister, asking him to give the necessary instructions that this new order of things might cease and the municipal regulations be canceled.

A reply was subsequently received from his excellency, Mr. Pokotilow, to the effect that, according to Article VI of the Chinese Eastern Railway agreement, the railway company has an absolute and exclusive right of administrating its lands. Consequently the institution of municipal rule by the railway company at the various places where they have acquired territory is in no way contrary to Article VI of the agreement and the rights acquired thereby.

My board thereupon sent a further communication to the Russian minister objecting to the position taken by him in the following terms:

The words, “land required by the company,” as used in Article VI of the agreement, mean only the land actually required for the use of the railway. Thereon the company may erect any buildings and may establish a telegraph line, worked by the company, for the company’s use; but as regards the matter of protection of the land and maintenance of the peace thereon, the authority for that rests in the hands of the Chinese officials, as witness Article V of the same agreement, which plainly stipulates that “the Chinese Government will take measures for the protection of the line and of the men employed thereon”; and, further, “all crimes and law suits arising on the land of the company will be dealt with by the local officials in accordance with the treaty.”

‘From this it may be seen that the authority to administer the land rests entirely with China. There can be no doubt about it whatever. Therefore the action of the railway company in instituting municipal administrations at any of the various places on the line is evidently a usurpation of China’s sovereignty, and it is absolutely impossible for the board of foreign affairs to recognize their rights in so doing.

It becomes my duty to send the above extracts from our records in order that you may be informed of the matter and acquaint the American consuls at Harbin and other places with the situation.

A necessary dispatch.