File No. 893.012/7.

The American Chargé d’Affaires to the Secretary of State.

No. 271.]

Sir: The legation has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s number 134 of May 16, 1911,1 inclosing copy of an instruction of the same date to the American consul at Foochow regarding the naturalization of Chinese as citizens of other countries.

Although it is true, as stated in the letter of April 3, 1911, to the Fukien bureau of foreign affairs by the American consul at Foochow, that the American Government prohibits the naturalization of Chinese, yet all the vexatious problems connected with double nationality are liable to arise between the Chinese and American authorities, as has been proven by several cases within recent years at Canton, notably that of Wong Chow, owing to the fact that large numbers of Chinese who had been naturalized as citizens of Hawaii prior to its annexation, to the United States in 1898, were, by the law of April 30, 1900, recognized as citizens of the United States.

The general provisions of the Chinese law of naturalization of March 28, 1909, in so far as they refer to the future naturalization of Chinese, are of no especial interest to Americans, but the Executive rules appended to the law apply to the already naturalized Hawaiian Chinese. It seems to the legation that this law, together with the rules, should be brought by the consuls to the attention of all such American citizens in China and the Chinese authorities duly notified that they are American citizens, unless they have expatriated themselves under the provisions of the second paragraph of section 2 of the act of March 2, 1907. In this connection, the consuls should be referred to the Department’s circular instruction of May 13, 1908, entitled, “Expatriation and Protection of Americans in China.”

Executive rules 1 and 2 refer to the notification of the Chinese authorities by the consul and by the person concerned, when a naturalized Chinese returns to China. Rule 3 provides that the naturalization will not be recognized by the Chinese authorities unless such notification is sent in. I am of the opinion that it would be advisable to conform to the provisions of rules 1 and 2 so far as convenient, but always with the reservation that in case of failure to do so, the American Government can not admit the right of the Chinese Government to question the American status of any regularly naturalized citizen.

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Rule 4 stipulates that any naturalized Chinese who buys land in the interior of China or otherwise avails himself of the rights properly limited to Chinese subjects shall be considered to have divested himself of his foreign nationality by the act. As under the treaties a foreigner, other than a missionary, has no right to purchase land in the interior, this rule is scarcely objectionable in principle. Our consuls might therefore be instructed Jo regard any such action on the part of a naturalized Chinese as prima facie evidence that he had renounced his American nationality. It would seem important, however, that this rule should be so modified or enlarged as to contain a provision covering the case of land the title to which vests by descent to a Chinese who has been naturalized as a foreigner, allowing a reasonable time, say one or two years from the date of the deaths of the ancestor, during which time the heir shall dispose of the estate or take proper steps to resume his original (Chinese) nationality. Such a clause would safeguard the rights of Chinese of this class in such cases. In any case, according to the act of Congress of March 2, 1907, the continued residence of a naturalized Chinese in China for a term of two years would cause him to revert to his Chinese nationality, unless he were able to prove that conditions (a), (b), or (c) of the Department’s circular instruction entitled “Expatriation,” of April 19, 1907, applied to his case.

Rule 5 provides that enrollment as a Chinese official involves expatriation from the foreign nationality, while rule 6 provides the means for a naturalized Chinese to apply to resume Chinese nationality. To these two rules it would seem that the American consular officials need offer no objection.

Rule 7 provides that Chinese who were born and have resided in foreign countries may, if they so desire, be regarded as Chinese subjects. The American Government recognizes the right of the child of an alien born in the territory of the United States to elect his nationality on coming of age, either choosing to be an American citizen or following the nationality of his parents. The danger in applying rule 7, loosely worded as it is, will be that children born in the United States of Chinese parentage may claim to be Americans in America and to be Chinese in China.

I think that our consuls should record and report both to the Department and to the local native authorities as completely as possible any such cases, so as to prevent such native-born American Chinese from exercising a double nationality.

Rule 8 provides that naturalized Chinese may be expelled from the interior. This may be admitted by American consuls with the reservation that any naturalized Chinese has the same right as any other American citizen to travel in the interior, if provided with an American passport. The provision of this rule should also be modified so far as it relates to those naturalized Chinese who may have inherited property in the interior, a condition discussed under rule 4,

Rules 9 and 10 apply only to those who have been naturalized after the promulgation of the Chinese law of 1909, and, it is believed, are therefore of no interest to American officials.

In regard to the status of Chinese in the Philippine Islands the decisions of the Department of State indicate that birth in the islands of Chinese parents does not entitle the child so born to be considered a citizen of the Philippine Islands. Only Chinese who had been [Page 69] naturalized as Spanish subjects prior to the annexation of the islands by America, with their children, are entitled to recognition by American officials as citizens of the Philippine Islands, and the remarks concerning Chinese-American citizens of the Hawaiian Islands would apply equally to them as regards their relation to the Chinese authorities.

I would be pleased if the Department would inform me at an early date of its views on this law and the appended rules, copies of which are inclosed in the legation’s No. 1143 of April 19, 1909, and instruct me concerning the proposed directions to our consuls in China, as contained herein, the issuance of which I beg to suggest might be found advisable. In this connection, I beg to call attention particularly to rules 4 and 8 and my comments thereon, and to request specific instructions as to whether I should address the Chinese foreign office, asking that these rules be so amended, or at least be given such an interpretation, as to prevent any possible hardship to Chinese Americans who may have inherited landed property in the interior of China.

In reporting this subject I should also state that I am informed by the American consul at Foochow that of the foreign consuls the British, German, and Russian have entirely ignored the Chinese circular; that the Japanese consul, in referring the matter to Tokyo, deprecated compliance with the rules; and that the French consul has referred the question to his legation here. Of the ministers here whom I approached on this subject, the few who professed to be aware of the existence of this Chinese circular, were all of the opinion that the matter might well be ignored for the present. Should the matter, however, be of importance to us it would seem that the other leading treaty powers represented here would have scarcely less interest in the matter than we have. Should the Department so desire, I would be glad to ask the other legations here to cooperate with ours in seeking to obtain a satisfactory adjustment of this question. I have, etc.

Percival Heintzleman.
  1. Not printed.