File No. 4002/266.

Chargé Fletcher to the Secretary of State.

No. 1313.]

Sir: In continuation of my No. 1292, of the 14th ultimo, on the subject of the municipal administration of Harbin, I have the honor to inclose a copy in translation of a note from Prince Ching inclosing a copy of a circular identic note addressed by the Wai-wu Pu to the representatives of the powers in Peking on the subject of the interpretation of the agreement (1896) for the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway. This circular note was adduced by the aide-mémoire of the Russian foreign office of September 23 last, which was communicated to the Chinese Government by the Russian minister. The department will note that the Chinese Government strongly repudiates the Russian contentions and emphatically reasserts Chinese sovereignty in the railway territory.

I have, etc.,

Henry P. Fletcher.
[Page 222]
[Inclosure 1—Translation.]

The Prince of Ching to Chargé Fletcher.

Your Excellency: My board has already settled the general rules for the establishment of municipal councils in the Russian railway territory of Manchuria with a view to preserving Chinese sovereignty and to securing the rights and privileges of merchants of all countries. In this we have received much assistance from other nations and we appreciate the friendly spirit shown.

But in the 9th moon (Oct. 14–Nov. 12, 1909) the Russian minister, Mr. Korostovetz, sent us a copy of the circular note issued by his Government, a perusal of which shows that it is at variance with the terms of the original railway agreement and contrary to the rules for the establishment of municipal councils, and opposed, also, to the stipulations of the treaty concluded between Japan and Russia in the American capital. The Chinese Government can not but vigorously protest against it. A circular note has been prepared to be sent to the ministers of all the powers in Peking and a reply has been sent to the Russian minister, Mr. Korostovetz; a copy of the note is now sent to your excellency for transmission to the American Government.

A necessary dispatch.

Inclosure: Copy of note.

Seal of the Wai-wu Pu.

a circular note.

The board (of foreign affairs) is in receipt of a note from the Russian minister, Mr. Korostovetz, in which he states that formerly several Governments protested against the rules agreed upon between China and Russia for municipal councils in the railway territory as encroaching upon the extraterritorial rights enjoyed by the subjects of other powers, and that the foreign office of his Government has now issued a circular note to the various powers specifying the rights and privileges which the subjects of other powers dwelling within the railway zone will enjoy; under the Russian Government, and explaining the nature of such rights and privileges according to the principles of international law. The minister has forwarded a copy of the circular note.

On reading the circular note we find that the Chinese Government can not assent to its terms. Our reasons for protesting are as follows:

The Russian circular asserts that the treaty ports opened by China are on a different footing from the status of the railway territory; that according to the sixth article of the Chinese Eastern Railway agreement the railway company has full administrative power over the territory occupied; that this is reaffirmed in the rules for the municipal councils; that the powers yielded in the aforesaid agreement are clear and ample, and that after the drawing up of the two agreements the Chinese Government yielded independent control of the railway territory to the Russo-Chinese Company, and the activities of the company in the said territory are those of a lessor under a private agreement; that the powers of sovereignty exercised are clearly indicated; also that when the Japanese and Russian plenipotentiaries were discussing the treaty it was announced that the concession for the construction and working of the Chinese Eastern Railway is not incompatible with the principle of the open door and of equal treatment, and that within the limits of the territory acquired by virtue of the concession the subjects of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and the subjects of other powers shall enjoy the same rights and privileges as the subjects of His Majesty the Emperor of Russia.

From an inspection of the above it appears that the privileges in possession of Russia concern sovereign powers and she only promises to foreigners impartial treatment. This board, in considering the contents of the circular note, finds that Russia claims to have obtained rights of sovereignty within the territory of the Chinese Eastern Railway, and adduces the two agreements and the statement made to the Japanese and Russian plenipotentiaries as proof, ignoring the numerous false interpretations involved. The Chinese Government has incontrovertible reasons to give against the above statement which will be given in detail:

The first article of the Chinese Eastern Railway agreement states that the Chinese Government will engage in a business enterprise with the Russo-Chinese Bank. The statement is, “will engage in a business enterprise,” showing clearly that the affair [Page 223] is one of business and has nothing to do with sovereignty. The statement is clear and admits of no doubt. But the Russian Government adduces the sixth article of the agreement as proof, which states that the company will single handed have full control, as referring to rights of sovereignty, ignoring the context below the words “full control,” which refers to erecting buildings and carrying on engineering work, and putting up telegraph lines, which will be managed by the company for the use of the railway, etc. The company’s full powers, according to the agreement, are over the land actually needed for railway purposes, and the powers of the company can not be stretched to cover more than affairs of the railway. The full powers of the company are limited to this and can not possibly be extended to include rights of sovereignty. Unexpectedly the Russian Government has drawn this inference and has affirmed that the sixth article conferred sovereign rights, and although this board had protested against it for several years Russia still persists in making the old claim. Is not this a great error? The above is the first ground of protest on the part of the Chinese Government.
Again on the twenty-first day, third moon, of the first year of Hsuan-t’ung (Russian date, Apr. 27, 1909; new style, May 10, 1909), in the rules for municipal councils drawn up between China and Russia, sections 1 to 5 were taken up with the affirmation of China’s sovereignty, not allowing the least diminishing thereof, and showing clearly that everything pertaining to the exercise of sovereignty within the railway zone belonged as formerly to China. Now, in the Russian circular note, these articles are misrepresented, together with the stipulations granting powers, and the plain intent is ignored. It is clearly affirmed that Chinese sovereignty is not in the least degree diminished, but Russia turns it to mean that she has obtained special rights of sovereignty. The above is the second ground of the Chinese Government for protest.
Again, in the thirty-first year of Kuang-hsü (1905) Russia and Japan made a treaty in America. The third article stipulated that Russia and Japan would “restore entirely and completely to the exclusive administration of China all portions of Manchuria.” The Russian Government also stated that Russia “has not in Manchuria any advantages or preferential or exclusive concession in impairment of Chinese sovereignty, or inconsistent with the principle of equal opportunity.” How unequivocal are these expressions? “Entirely and completely,” “all portions of Manchuria,” “exclusive administration,” “has not any territorial advantages in impairment of Chinese sovereignty”—how can these be forced to other meanings? Waiving the trade agreements and declarations of China as proof, even the solemn treaty of the two nations is ignored. The above is the third reason of the Chinese Government for protest.
From the above considerations the nature of the proofs of the Russian Government may be inferred. They are forced pleading and one sided. This board has explained matters in detail so that all the Governments may fully understand the case from beginning to end.

Again, in the fifth article of the railway agreement it is stipulated that the railway and all the railway employees shall be under the protection of the Chinese Government. It is also stipulated that all cases of murder or robbery and other criminal charges shall be adjudicated by the local officials according to the treaties. So the responsibility of protecting the railway territory rests upon China. Of this there is no shadow of doubt. The whole of Manchuria is still the possession of China, complete and undiminished. The proof is certain and can not be assailed. Moreover, the sovereign power over Harbin and the neighborhood can on no account be yielded to the Chinese Eastern Railway. The Chinese Government now greatly desires to preserve China’s rightful sovereignty and also to maintain the rights and privileges of all nations having commercial intercourse with China. Therefore this circular note is issued for the consideration of the Governments of all the nations.