File No. 893.512/72

Minister Reinsch to the Secretary of State

No. 1251

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith copies of despatches under dates of April 4 and September 21 last (Nos. 39 and 76, respectively) from the Consul at Changsha, in regard to the collection of likin dues on foreign goods entering the walled city of Changsha; also a copy of the Legation’s instruction (No. 1924) of the 21st instant, on this subject.

It seems to the Legation that the Consul’s contention in this matter is fully warranted by the Department’s instruction to the Consul at Nanking (No. 7, of which a copy was enclosed with the Department’s instruction No. 161 of September 30, 1914)49 under date of September 23, 1914, in the course of which it is stated that

this Government has heretofore insisted that when a city is opened to foreign residence and trade it is the city and not an adjacent district that is open and that therefore likin can not be collected on goods carried from the landing or settlement into the city.

I have, however, the honor to request such specific instructions as the Department may see fit to give upon consideration of this particular case as presented in the despatches from Changsha which are herewith enclosed, with a view to the eventuality of having to take up with the Foreign Office a demand that it recognize and give effect to such a construction of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of 1903 as would include the walled city within the limitations of the Port of Changsha as open to trade.

I have [etc.]

Paul S. Reinsch
[Page 234]
[Inclosure 1]

Consul Johnson to Minister Reinsch

No. 39

Sir: I have the honor to report that some days ago I received a complaint from the local manager of the Singer Sewing Machine Company to the effect that the stations of the local likin office located at the city gates of Changsha were refusing to allow foreign imported goods to enter the city gates without payment of likin. I protested to the local Commissioner of Finance by telephone requesting that orders be given permitting the goods to enter the city without the payment of likin as Changsha was an open port. I was unable to get any satisfaction, the answer being that that part of Changsha which is located within the walls was and always had been considered to be part of the interior of the country (nei ti) as distinguished from the commercial settlement under the treaties.

Now as a matter of fact the setting apart of a commercial settlement at Changsha has never been definitely accomplished. The port was opened in 1904 under the provisions of the Japanese Commercial Treaty of 1903, Article X, which contains the following provision:

The Chinese Government agree to open to foreign trade, within six months from the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty, Changsha-fu, in the Province of Hunan, on the same footing as the ports already opened to foreign trade. Foreigners residing in this open port are to observe the municipal and police regulations on the same footing as Chinese residents, and they are not to be entitled to establish a municipality and police of their own within the limits of the treaty port, except with the consent of the Chinese authorities.

I therefore wrote to the Commissioner of Finance for the Province of Hunan the following letter of protest on March 28.

Sir: I have the honor to request that instructions be issued to the stations of the likin office located at the city gates of Changsha to refrain from the collection of likin on foreign merchandise imported into China which has paid the usual duties prescribed by the treaties. It has come to my attention that these stations have been in the habit of levying likin on goods of foreign origin which have already paid the usual customs duties provided by the treaties. This is illegal as the city of Changsha is an open port within which likin may not be levied on such goods.

“I am informed that the likin officer of the Tai Hsi Men is now holding up a parcel of goods belonging to the Singer Sewing Machine Company for payment of likin. I request that instructions be issued to this likin station to release this parcel of goods without delay.

“I have [etc.]”

I have not received a reply to this protest. On the other hand the Singer Sewing Machine Company again had occasion to bring goods to their stock in the city shortly after the above letter was sent. These goods were held up at the city gate. As the firm was in urgent need of the goods I told the manager that he should pay the likin and obtain a receipt for the money. I asked him to toward me the receipt which he has done and I have this day written another letter to the Commissioner for Finance requesting that the money covered by the receipt be refunded to the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

I have [etc.]

Nelson T. Johnson
[Inclosure 2]

Consul Johnson to Minister Reinsch

No. 76

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch of April 4 last on the above subject, No. 39, in which I reported that I had filed a protest with the Commissioner of Finance against the collection of likin by likin stations at the city gates [Page 235] of Changsha on foreign goods passing into the walled city. At the time that I wrote this despatch, the Commissioner of Finance had not made a ruling in this matter other than to state over the telephone the contention that the area within the city walls of Changsha formed part of what is now known as the Chinese interior or “nei ti.” On April 14, however, I received from the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs a letter covering this matter and referring to a communication which he had received from the provincial Commissioner of Finance covering the whole question. I enclose copy of Chinese text of this letter as well as a copy of translation of same for the Legation’s information.4 The Legation will note that the sum and substance of his contention in this matter is that the area within the city walls of Changsha is part of the Chinese interior and that it follows that goods taken into this area are liable to payment of likin. He quotes from regulations which he states were drawn up conjointly between the customs and the likin offices covering the procedure to be followed in the collection of likin on foreign goods imported into Changsha and states that Clause IV of these regulations stipulates that

“goods brought by steamer shall be taken from the steamer to the jetty and to the commercial port and stored in the foreign godowns. Such goods shall be free temporarily from the payment of likin. Later, when such goods are sold to Chinese merchants and before they leave the commercial port and the foreign godown the foreign firm and the merchant concerned shall report the weight and number of packages, so that when the goods leave the commercial port and come from the foreign godown, the likin officers may examine and collect the necessary amount of likin taxed. If the goods are taken to native godowns or to shops where they may be sold, then such goods must pay the likin immediately as required by the regulations.”

In reply to this letter I wrote to the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs on April 24, copy of which letter I enclose,4 denying the validity of the regulations quoted by the Commissioner of Finance which had apparently been drawn up without the consent or agreement of the American Government, and again asking that instructions be issued for the discontinuance of the collection of likin at the city gates of Changsha on foreign goods. I also pointed out, as the Legation will note, that payment of this charge in the past by the Singer Sewing Machine Co. could not be considered to constitute a precedent in favor of its collection.

There was no further outcome of this matter. Likin continued to be assessed and during the summer the Singer Sewing Machine Co. forwarded to me receipts issued to them, all of which I handed over to the Chinese authorities asking for a refund of assessments thus illegally paid. On the 5th instant I received a second communication from the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs acknowledging the receipt of two letters with which I had forwarded likin receipts. He returned all of these receipts to me and again repeated the substance of the first letter from the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs referred to above in support of his contention that the likin authorities were acting within their rights in demanding payment of likin on foreign goods brought into the city of Changsha. In this letter he again refers to the regulations for collection of likin drawn up in conjunction with the Commissioner of Customs at the time of the opening of the Port of Changsha, and he states that these regulations were notified to the various consuls in the 30th year of Kuang Hsi by the Superintendent of Customs at Changsha. He admits that in the 32d year of Kuang Hsi protest against these regulations was made to the Central Government at Peking through the British and Japanese Legations. He also states that a second protest was filed by the Japanese Legation in 1912; he states that the dues have been collected from the time of the enforcement of the regulations down to the present. He again quotes from the regulations a passage which corresponds in all respects to Article IV quoted above, and uses this provision of the regulations as a basis for determining the limits of the Treaty Port of Changsha. Or, in other words, for delimiting the area within which foreign goods may be brought without payment of likin and other charges. He contends that the area of the trade settlement or commercial port of Changsha was determined at an early date and that although it is true that Changsha is a treaty port “open to international trade, it cannot be held that foreign and Chinese godowns and warehouses both inside and outside of the walled city are within the area of the open treaty port.” He again argues [Page 236] that payment of likin in the past forms a precedent for the proper collection of likin now and in the future, and contends that there is no infraction of treaty stipulations in that when the goods pass through the city gates they have left the confines of the Treaty Port of Changsha.

On the 6th instant I replied to him and endeavored to answer his arguments, and I enclose herewith a copy of my letter.4 I returned the likin receipts to him and again asked that instructions be issued for the discontinuance of the collection of likin on foreign goods passing through the city gates of Changsha. I informed him that I had no knowledge of any such regulations as had been mentioned by him and his predecessor, establishing a procedure for the collection of likin on foreign goods imported into Changsha, nor did I have any knowledge of consent to such regulations on the part of my Government. In ending, I asked the Commissioner to forward me two copies of the regulations which he stated had been drawn up to govern the collection of likin on foreign goods imported into Changsha. I have not as yet received any reply to this letter, but with the Legation’s, approval if I do not receive some favorable action through the office of the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs, I propose to take the matter up with the Civil Governor and later with the Legation, if necessary.

Thus far the Singer Sewing Machine Co. is the only American firm that has filed a protest with this office against the payment of likin which is collected at the city gates on goods carried into the walled city of Changsha. I am aware, however, that likin is collected on all cargo which goes into the city of Changsha. It is being successfully collected, for it is impossible to get goods into the city without passing the gates and the stations at the gates refuse to permit goods to enter until payment is made.

I have [etc.]

N. T. Johnson
[Inclosure 3]

Minister Reinsch to Consul Johnson

No. 1924

Sir: Referring to the despatch (No. 76) of September 21, in which you reported further concerning the collection of likin at the city gates of Changsha I have to inform you that the legation approves of your contention that the area within the walls of the city is naturally and of course included within the port as open to foreign trade in pursuance of the provisions of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of 1903.

It is noted that you are still awaiting copies of the likin regulations which the Chinese authorities maintain to be applicable, and that you contemplate further negotiations with the Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and with the civil governor; while awaiting the outcome of your representations to the local authorities the Legation is referring to the Department your despatches of April 4 and September 21 (Nos. 39 and 76 respectively), with the request to be authorized, in the event of your obtaining no satisfactory solution locally, to insist that the Foreign Office recognize and give effect to the construction of the treaty for which you are contending.

I am [etc.]

Paul S. Reinsch
  1. For. Rel. 1914, p. 130.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.