The Secretary of State to the Minister in China ( Crane )

No. 142

Sir: The Department has received your despatch of August 2, 1920, and its enclosures, regarding the question of asylum in the Legation quarter in Peking.19

Article 7 of the final protocol concluded between China and various foreign governments on September 7, 1901,20 provides, as the Legation is aware, that the quarter occupied by the legations shall be considered as one specially reserved for their use and placed under their exclusive control, in which Chinese shall not have the right to reside, and which may be made defensible. Whatever may have been the original intention with respect to the quarter being reserved for the residence of foreign legations to the exclusion of private persons and interests, the Department is aware that from time to time private individuals of various nationalities, including a number of American citizens, have been permitted to reside in the Legation quarter. In view of this situation, the Department, in approving the Legation’s instruction of July 28, 1920,21 to American residents of the quarter, considers it advisable to instruct the Legation, and through it the American residents of the quarter, in regard to the granting of asylum to Chinese refugees.

It has been the universal practice of this Government to discountenance the granting of asylum by its representatives in foreign countries, as indicated in paragraphs 50 and 51 of the Department’s Instructions to Diplomatic Officers of the United States,22 with which the Legation is doubtless familiar. The Department considers that [Page 343] the paragraphs mentioned, although originally intended only for the guidance of American representatives in foreign countries, should also govern the action of American residents within the Legation quarter at Peking, since the quarter is under the exclusive control of the legations, and the harboring of Chinese refugees within it, whether by the Legation or American residents thereof, would be in contravention of the provision of Article 7 of the Protocol of 1901 that Chinese shall not be permitted to reside within the quarter.

The Legation is particularly cautioned against the giving of assurances in advance to Chinese officials or others that they may be afforded protection within the quarter, should their lives become endangered. The Department desires also to state that whatever may be the practice of the legations of other nations in China with respect to the granting of protection to Chinese refugees, the Department can neither approve nor sanction the extension of this so-called right to such refugees when to do so would result in harboring offenders against the laws of China from the pursuit of the legitimate agents of justice.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Alvey A. Adee
  1. Ibid.
  2. Ibid., 1901, Appendix (Affairs of China), p. 316.
  3. Ibid., 1920, vol. i, p. 458; also quoted in draft of letter to American residents in Diplomatic Quarter in Peking, post, p. 344.
  4. For texts of paragraphs 50 and 51, see draft of letter to American residents of the Diplomatic Quarter in Peking, p. 344.