The Secretary of State to the Minister in China ( Reinsch )
Sir: The Department acknowledges the receipt of your despatch No. 1734 of November 18, 1917,10 enclosing copies of correspondence exchanged between the Legation and the Consul at Chungking in regard to the use of the American flag. The Consul at Chungking appears to desire information relating to the use of the flag in connection with three classes of property.
- Over offices and warehouses of American concerns represented by Chinese.
- On small boats owned by Americans and used in Chinese waters.
- On Chinese boats carrying American passengers or American owned goods.
The Department has given careful consideration to the matter of the use of the American flag in China and can see no objection to the use of the flag over the offices or warehouses in China of American concerns represented by Chinese or on small boats owned by American citizens and used in Chinese waters, provided, that the use of the flag in such cases is not in contravention of local law, and does not disturb the peace.
The Department considers, however, that the use of the flag on Chinese boats carrying American passengers or American owned goods should not be resorted to.
As bearing on the general question of the use of the flag, the Department encloses herewith copy of an Act of February 8, 1917, entitled “An Act to prevent and punish the desecration, mutilation, or improper use, within the District of Columbia, of the flag of the United States of America.”11
This law is deemed of interest to the Legation and Consulates in China in view of the decision of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals of the Ninth Judicial Circuit to the effect that the laws of Alaska and the District of Columbia were applicable in China as laws of the United States12 and in view of the practice of the United States Court for China in applying these laws to American citizens in China.
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