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

No. 1243

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s instruction of March 10, 1921, No. 142, regarding the question of asylum in the Legation Quarter in Peking. A circular letter based on this instruction, and addressed to American residents in the Quarter, has been drafted and a copy thereof is enclosed for the Department’s consideration.

I venture, however, to call attention to the fact that my letter of July 28, 1920, to American residents, which has received the Department’s approval in this instruction, is more sweeping in its terms than paragraphs 50 and 51 of the Department’s Instructions to Diplomatic Officers of the United States, which appear to leave to the Diplomatic Officers a certain latitude of judgment in the granting or denying of asylum. By its present instruction, however, (paragraph 3) the Department appears to be of the opinion that American Diplomatic Officers and American residents in the Quarter are on the same footing and governed by the same rules in the granting [Page 344] of asylum. To avoid any possible inconsistency, therefore, I would suggest that my letter of July 28, 1920, stand without further commentary and without the issuance of a letter along the lines of the enclosure to this despatch.

I have [etc.]

Charles R. Crane

Draft of Letter to the American Residents of the Diplomatic Quarter in Peking

Pursuant to instructions from the Department of State, Washington, the following views of the American Government regarding the granting of asylum to Chinese refugees by American residents in the Diplomatic Quarter are brought to your attention:

Article 7 of the final Protocol concluded between China and various foreign governments on September 7, 1901, provides 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, private individuals of various nationalities, including a number of American citizens, have from time to time been permitted to reside in the Legation Quarter. In view of this situation, the Department of State approves the Legation’s notification of July 28, 1920, to American residents of the Quarter which reads as follows:

“July 28, 1920.

To American Residents
of the Diplomatic Quarter,

Gentlemen: Owing to the present confused political situation, I have decided that refuge should not be given to Chinese men seeking to hide themselves in the Legation Quarter. All Americans, therefore, who reside in the Quarter are requested not to allow Chinese men from outside to reside in their business offices or dwelling houses. As to Chinese women and children, American residents in the Legation Quarter may use their own discretion.

(Signed) Charles R. Crane,
United States Minister.”

It has been the universal practice of the American Government to discountenance granting 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, which read as follows: [Page 345]

[“]50. Asylum.—The privilege of immunity from local jurisdiction does not embrace the right of asylum for persons outside of a representative’s diplomatic or personal household.

51. Unsanctioned Asylum.—In some countries, where frequent insurrections occur and consequent instability of government exists, the practice of extraterritorial asylum has become so firmly established that it is often invoked by unsuccessful insurgents and is practically recognized by the local government, to the extent even of respecting the premises of a consulate in which such refugees [fugitives] may take refuge. This government does not sanction the usage and enjoins upon its representatives in such countries the avoidance of all pretexts for its exercise. While indisposed to direct its representatives to deny temporary shelter to any person whose life may be threatened by mob violence, it deems it proper to instruct them that it will not countenance them in any attempt knowingly to harbor offenders against the laws from the pursuit of the legitimate agents of justice”.

The Department of State considers that 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 Department of State particularly cautions against the giving of assurances in advance to Chinese officials or others that they may be afforded protection in the Quarter, should their lives become endangered. The Department of State 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.

You are requested to take note of the foregoing and to be governed accordingly in the event that the question of granting asylum to refugees within the Legation Quarter should at any time arise.