Minister Calhoun to the Secretary of State.

No. 21.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit to you an interesting memorandum prepared by the Chinese secretary on the Chinese constitutional assembly, with a translation of the regulations governing the same, which have been approved by imperial rescript. As the department is aware, the present measure forms part of the program of constitutional reform which was promulgated in August, 1908.

I have, etc.,

W. J. Calhoun.


According to the manifesto on the subject of the constitutional reform which was issued by the imperial court in the last year of the reign of the late Emperor Kuanghsü, provincial assemblies (Tsu-i-chü) were to be organized in the Provinces in the year 1909 and the new constitutional assembly was to be opened in 1910.

The purpose of the assembly is to prepare the way for the opening of the regular Parliament in two houses, which is planned according to the original manifesto for the year 1916.

A first draft of rules for the organization of the assembly was drawn up and published in 1908, but the final and complete set of rules was not published until August, 1909, and a translation of these rules is now attached to the memorandum.

With regard to the constitutional assembly the Imperial Government has taken great precautions to guard against hasty action on the part of reformers. Of the 200 members who will constitute the assembly 100 are chosen directly by the Throne, and all of the remaining 100 who are to be chosen by the provincial assemblies must be approved by the governors and governors general of the Provinces concerned before their election can be valid. The general idea of both the provincial assemblies and the constitutional assembly is that of schools for the training of the people in constitutional government, and the full control of the Central Government over both organizations is carefully provided for in the regulations published.

[Page 332]

It is still five months before the assembly will convene, but the publication of the names of the members chosen by the Throne on the 10th of May, 1910, has brought the subject of the coming assembly prominently before the minds of the people.

As long ago as September, 1907, Prince Pu Lun, known in America as the prince who represented China at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, was appointed one of the two presidents of the constitutional assembly, the other being the distinguished Chinese scholar, the grand secretary, Sun Chia-nai, who died in 1909. No successor to Sun Chia-nai has yet been appointed, nor have the vice presidents called for in the regulations yet been appointed.

The names of members of the assembly chosen by the Prince Regent and published on the 10th of May include, as called for in the regulations, 14 imperial princes and nobles, 12 Chinese and Manchu nobles not of the imperial clan, 14 princes and nobles of the outer dependencies, i. e., Mongolia, Tibet, and Mohammedan Chinese Turkestan, 6 imperial clansmen and Gioro (i. e., collateral relatives of the imperial house), and 10 distinguished scholars. The 10 capitalists or “heavy taxpayers” have not yet been chosen. The 32 representatives of the boards were nominated by a special ballot taken in the different boards at Peking last month, in which 160 persons were nominated, although of these the last 61 received only one vote each. The fact that only officials under the third rank were eligible made it certain that no one of prominence could be nominated. The 32 names chosen out of the 160 who were nominated seem to have been taken without any close regard to the number of votes they had received. The different boards are represented as follows: Board of foreign affairs, 5; board of civil appointments, 4; censorate, 4; board of revenue, 3; board of the interior, 3; board of education, 3; board of war, 2; board of dependencies, 2; Hanlin College, 2; board of posts and communications, 1; board of law, 1.

Of the 32 appointed from the Peking boards 8 are Manchus and 2 are Mongols.

The buildings for the constitutional assembly, which are ultimately to be the parliamentary buildings, are now in process of erection on the site of the former literary examination hall in the eastern section of Peking. The contract calls for the completion of the buildings in the seventh moon, two months before the opening of the assembly.


Regulations for the constitutional assembly.


[Approved by imperial rescript, Hsuan-t’ung, first year, seventh moon, eighth day (Aug. 23, 1909).]

Section I.General principles.

  • Article 1. The primary object of the constitutional assembly is to prepare for the organization of the upper and lower houses of Parliament by general discussion as ordered by imperial edict.
  • Art. 2. The two presidents of the constitutional assembly, who will control all the proceedings of the assembly have been chosen by the Throne from the princes and ministers on the basis of merit and acquaintance with the principles of government.
  • Art. 3. Vice presidents to the number of two or four to assist the presidents in the management of all the affairs of the assembly will be specially appointed by the Throne from among officials of the third or higher rank and will be chosen for ability and educational attainments.
  • Art. 4. The members of the assembly will be of two classes—(a) those appointed by the Throne and (b) those elected.
  • Art. 5. All members of the assembly will have equal powers and privileges in the assembly.
  • Art. 6. The sessions of the assembly will be of two sorts—(a) regular and (b) special. The regular sessions will be annual and each session will continue for three months. The special sessions will be held at no specified time and will continue for one month.
  • Art. 7. The times for convening and terminating all sessions will be determined by the Throne and will be published in the Official Gazette.
  • Art. 8. Sessions of the assembly will be opened by the Emperor in person, or by some high official deputed to act for him, and the questions to be discussed at the session will be announced.
[Page 333]

Section II.—Membership.

  • Article 9. Members of the assembly, who must be 30 years or more in age, will be chosen from the following classes:
    Imperial princes and nobles.
    Manchu and Chinese nobles.
    Mongol, Tibetan, and Mohammedan princes and nobles.
    Imperial clansmen and Gioro.
    Officials, fourth to seventh ranks, inclusive, connected with the Peking boards (law and police officials are not eligible).
    Distinguished scholars.
    Heavy taxpayers.
    Members of the provincial assemblies.
  • Art. 10. The numbers of the different classes of members will be as follows:
    Imperial princes and nobles, 16.
    Manchu and Chinese nobles, 12.
    Mongol, Tibetan, and Mohammedan princes and nobles, 14.
    Imperial clansmen and Gioro, 6.
    Officials of boards, 32.
    Distinguished scholars, 10.
    Heavy taxpayers, 10.
    Members of provincial assemblies, 100.
  • Art. 11. The appointment of members by imperial choice and election will be as follows:
    Imperial princes and nobles, Manchu and Chinese nobles, Tibetan, Mongol, and Mohammedan princes and nobles, imperial clansmen and Gioro, officials of the Peking boards, distinguished scholars, and heavy taxpayers, will be chosen by the Throne.
    The members from the provincial assemblies will be elected. After the election the list will be subject to approval of the viceroys and governors, who will send the lists to the constitutional assembly.
  • Art. 12. Detailed rules governing the appointment both by imperial selection and by election will be separately drawn up.
  • Art. 13. Members will serve for three years, after which new appointments will be made.

Section III.—Powers of the assembly.

  • Article 14. The matters on which the assembly will be competent to take action will be the following:
    The provisional national budgets.
    The final national budgets.
    Taxes and loans.
    The new code of laws and any alterations that may be proposed to the same. But the adoption of constitutional government may not be discussed.
    Matters referred to the constitutional assembly by the imperial court.
  • Art. 15. The questions enumerated above from (a) to (d), inclusive, must be proposed to the Throne by the grand council or by the heads of the boards concerned, and must be referred to the assembly by the Throne, but in respect to (c) taxes and loans and (d) changes in the laws the constitutional assembly may independently draw up proposals.
  • Art. 16. When the assembly has taken action on any of the matters enumerated in article 14 the presidents and vice presidents of the assembly will notify the grand council or the heads of the boards concerned, who will memoralize, asking for the imperial decision.

Section IV.—The relations between the assembly and executive departments of the Government.

  • Article 17. If the grand council or the heads of boards disagree with the decisions of the assembly they may send them back for reconsideration.
  • Art. 18. If the assembly refuses to change its decision on any subject sent back for reconsideration, the presidents and vice presidents of the assembly and the grand council or the heads of the boards interested will memorialize, reporting their several opinions for the decision of the Throne.
  • Art. 19. During the deliberations of the assembly the grand councilors or heads of boards may either attend in person or send representatives to express their views, but they may not vote.
  • Art. 20. If the assembly requires information concerning any matters in charge of any Government department, or of the grand secretariat, or of the Government council, they must make their inquiries through the presidents and vice presidents of the assembly. If the grand council or the heads of the boards consider that secrecy is necessary, they will explain, giving the reasons therefor.
  • Art. 21. If the grand councilors or heads of boards encroach on the privileges of the constitutional assembly, or violate the laws, the same will be reported by the presidents and vice presidents of the assembly by memorial to the Throne, asking for the imperial decision. In regard to all the above matters which are to be reported to the Throne by memorial the assembly must express itself by a two-thirds majority of all the members present.

Section V.—The relations between the constitutional assembly and the provincial assemblies.

  • Article 22. Matters relating to the governmental affairs of any province or to the welfare of the people may be referred to the different provincial assemblies for reports through the presidents and vice presidents of the assembly.
  • Art. 23. All questions in which the provincial assemblies are at variance with the viceroy or governor of the province and questions of dispute between the assemblies of different provinces shall be referred to the constitutional assembly for consideration and the decisions of the assembly shall be communicated to the throne by the presidents and vice presidents, which shall give the final decision. In the discussion of the above-mentioned questions the representatives of the provinces concerned will not take part.
  • Art. 24. If provincial assemblies have complaints against the viceroy or governor of the province for encroaching on the privileges of the provincial assembly, or for violating the laws, they may refer them to the constitutional assembly, and such matters when they have been carefully investigated will be dealt with as provided in article 21.
  • Art. 25. Natives of any province who have representations to make on matters affecting the welfare of the whole country may draw up their statements and forward them to the constitutional assembly with the indorsement of some fellow provincial who is a member of the assembly.
  • Art. 26. The proposals mentioned in the last article must first be handed by the chairman of the assembly to the chief committees for sanction. If there is nothing illegal or disrespectful in them they will be received. After they have been once examined into and either approved or rejected they may not be again presented during the same session of the assembly, nor forwarded to any other place.
  • Art. 27. If the chiefs of committees acting on proposals sent in by the people decide by a majority vote that they are conformable to law and ought to be adopted, they will enter them on the regular agenda program of the assembly. If they relate to executive government, they shall be forwarded to the yamen concerned.
  • Art. 28. The constitutional assembly shall not have the right to issue proclamations nor summon persons to attend.
  • Art. 29. The constitutional assembly shall not interfere in any criminal cases or lawsuits.

Section VII.—Rules of procedure.

  • Article 30. The presidents of the assembly shall act as chairmen, and the vice presidents as vice chairmen will act for them when they are prevented by other business from acting.
  • Art. 31. The regular sessions of the assembly will be from the first of the ninth moon to the first of the twelfth moon, and this may be lengthened by one month if the pressure of business makes it necessary.
  • Art. 32. Special sessions of the constitutional assembly may be held in addition to the regular sessions for the discussion of important affairs on the demand of one of the executive departments of the Government, or of the presidents and vice presidents of the assembly, or by a majority vote of the members of the assembly. A memorial must be sent to the Throne, which will summon the special session.
  • Art. 33. After the assembling of the members they will be divided into committees by lot, and each committee will elect a chairman.
  • Art. 34. Two-thirds of the total membership will be required to constitute a quorum of the assembly.
  • Art. 35. A majority of the members present will be required to pass any measure. If the pros and cons are equal the chairman will have the casting vote.
  • Art. 36. No subject shall be put upon the agenda for discussion unless advocated by over 30 members.
  • Art. 37. When the budget estimates, laws, or other important subjects are to be discussed the chairman will first refer them to the committee concerned for investigation, after which the discussion will take place.
  • Art. 38. The presidents and vice presidents will issue a daily bulletin to the members of all subjects to be discussed, and send the same to the executive departments of the Government for their inspection.
  • Art. 39. When the subject under discussion concerns the interests of a member or of his relatives, or refers to something which his official position prohibits him from discussing, he shall not take part in the debate.
  • Art. 40. If any member has the personal privilege of memorializing the Throne he may not exercise that privilege in regard to any matter under discussion before the assembly.
  • Art. 41. Except for crimes committed during the time of the session no member may be arrested except by the consent of the assembly.
  • Art. 42. Members of the assembly may not be called in question outside the assembly for any of their utterances in debate within the assembly. If they themselves publish outside their views and those views are contrary to law they may be punished according to the law.
  • Art. 43. Spectators will not be forbidden to attend the meetings of the assembly.
  • In the following cases the members of the assembly must admit a prohibition:
    When any executive department of the Government requests that spectators be forbidden to attend.
    When the presidents and vice presidents agree that spectators be forbidden to attend.
    When more than 30 members request that spectators be forbidden to attend.
  • Art. 44. Supplementary rules will be drawn up governing the rules of debate, the organization of committees, and the admission of spectators.
  • Art. 45. Police inspectors and policemen will be appointed who will be under the orders of the chairman of the assembly. The number of such police and the rules under which they will act will be drawn up later.
  • Art. 46. If any member violates the rules of the assembly in debate he may be forbidden to speak by the chairman. If he refuses obedience he may be expelled. If spectators violate the rules of the assembly they will be expelled by the chairman. If any confusion arises which is sufficient to interrupt the deliberations the chairman may temporarily adjourn the assembly.
  • Art. 47. If any member repeatedly violates the rules of the assembly or speaks or acts in a violent manner he may be prohibited from attending the assembly. If the matter is serious his name may be struck off the roll.
  • Art. 48. If members without cause do not reply to the summons to assemble, or after the assembling do not appear after 10 days their names may be dropped from the roll.
  • Art. 49. If members of the assembly use their position to promote other interests they may be prohibited from attending the assembly, and if the offense is serious their names may be struck off the roll.
  • Art. 50. A member may be prohibited from attending the assembly for 10 days. If the presidents and vice presidents agree that his name be struck off the roll it may be done on a two-thirds vote of all members present.
  • Art. 51. If the member whose name ought to be struck off the roll is one of those chosen by the Throne, the presidents and vice presidents shall memorialize requesting the Throne to take action.
  • Art. 52. For the following causes the assembly may be dissolved by imperial edict:
    For overstepping the powers of the assembly.
    For passing resolutions which are contrary to the laws.
    For disagreement between the assembly and the executive departments of the Government which may make necessary a conference.
    When disturbances are raised which the chairman is unable to control the assembly may be suspended for 15 days.
  • Art. 53. For the following reasons the assembly may be dissolved by imperial edict and a new election called for within 5 months:
    For passing resolutions shoving contempt for the Throne.
    For passing resolutions calculated to disturb the peace of the Empire.
    For refusing to obey the order suspending the meetings of the assembly, or for persisting in wrong courses after numerous suspensions.
    For failure of a large number of members to respond to the summons to assemble.
[Page 336]

Section IX.—Organization of secretariat.

  • Article 54. The assembly shall establish a secretariat, which will be responsible for correspondence, accounts, and keeping all records.
  • Art. 55. The assembly’s secretariat shall have one chief secretary, who shall be a fourth-rank official, and who shall be appointed by the Throne on the recommendation of the presidents and vice presidents.
  • Art. 56. The assembly’s secretariat shall have assistant secretaries of the first, second, and third classes, four of each class. The first-class assistant secretaries shall be officials of the fifth rank, the second-class assistant secretaries shall be of the sixth rank, and the third-class assistant secretaries shall be of the seventh rank, who shall be appointed by the presidents and vice presidents after memorializing the Throne.
  • Art. 57. The assembly secretariat shall establish a library for the keeping of all the books and records of the assembly. The librarian will be appointed by the chief secretary.
  • Art. 58. The chief secretary, acting under the instructions of the presidents and vice presidents, will be responsible for all the work of the secretariat.
  • Art. 59. The assistant secretaries, acting under the instructions of the chief secretary, will be responsible for the detailed work of the different departments of the secretariat.
  • Art. 60. The bureaus of the secretariat will be four, as follows:
    Bureau of permanent records (Chi Yao K’o).
    Bureau of current business (I Shih K’o).
    Bureau of reporters (Su Chi K’o).
    Bureau of miscellaneous affairs (Shu Wu K’o).
  • Art. 61. The numbers of writers and reporters to be employed will be determined by the chief secretary in consultation with the presidents and vice presidents after estimating the actual work to be done.
  • Art. 62. The detailed rules for the conduct of the secretariat will be drawn up by the chief secretary, who will present them to the presidents and vice presidents for approval.

Section X.—Expenses.

  • Article 63. The classification of the expenses of the assembly will be as below:
    Salaries of presidents and vice presidents.
    Salaries and traveling expenses of members.
    Expenses of secretariat and police.
    Miscellaneous expenses and fund for special expenses.
  • Art. 64. All the expenses under the heads above enumerated will be fixed by imperial edict on memorial.
  • Art. 65. The expenses of the constitutional assembly will be entered in the estimates of the board of revenue for each year and will be paid over without deduction.

Supplementary articles.

  • Article I. After these regulations have received the imperial approval they will be considered to be in force from the first day of the ninth moon of the first year of Hsuan-t’ung (Oct. 14, 1909).
  • Art. II. As long as these regulations remain in force they will be carried out by the presidents and vice presidents of the assembly, who will memorialize jointly with the grand council.