793.003 C 73/80a: Circular telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in France ( Whitehouse )65

With reference to the Department’s instruction of May 11, 1923,66 concerning the readiness of the Chinese Government to have the Commission on Extraterritoriality meet on November 1, 1923, it appears that at a meeting of the Diplomatic Body at Peking on May 24 all of the ministers (with the exception of the American Minister who abstained from voting pending consultation with his Government) agreed upon the following identic telegram to be despatched to their home governments:

“The Chinese Government having requested that the Commission on Extraterritoriality should meet on November 1, 1923, the representatives of the Signatory Powers of the treaties of Washington have the honor to inform their governments that, in view of existing conditions in China, they are of the opinion that the meeting of this Commission should be once more postponed and not convened until they can recommend its assembly.”

Thereafter this Government had occasion to express to the British and Italian Governments its views on the subject namely, that it would be reluctant to see the Commission indefinitely postponed; that while the resolution of the Washington Conference binds the participating and adhering Powers only to an investigation, it was felt that as they are committed to an investigation, it is preferable that the morale of their position should be maintained by keeping all [Page 628] promises made; that such a course of action should be a source of strength and should have a bearing on the general question of the protection of foreigners in China; that should the Chinese Government prove unresponsive to the reasonable demands of the Powers designed to secure the elementary rights of foreigners in that country, it would then appear a more opportune moment to consider a further postponement to some definite date of the Extraterritoriality Commission; and that, in the meantime this Government felt that the date of November 1, 1923, should be reserved for the meeting.

Prior to this expression of the view of this Government, the British Government had stated its opinion

“that, in view of existing conditions in China, the date suggested for the meeting of the commission for the investigation of extraterritoriality and the administration of justice is inopportune, inadvisable, and unfair to China, and that the meeting should be postponed to a more opportune date.”

In reply to the expression of the view of this Government, the Italian Government stated its opinion that persistent abnormal conditions in China still counsel against holding the meeting in November but in view of the considerations set forth by this Government, the Italian Government does not oppose the meeting for the date indicated if the other Powers participating in the Washington Resolution consent and that general conditions of the country permit thereof. The Japanese Government has stated that if the Government of the United States thought it advisable to proceed with the work of the Commission, it would be prepared to participate. The Belgian Government stated its opinion that the meeting should be postponed, but that it would be prepared to participate in the meeting of the Commission on November 1st next, provided that all the other interested Powers agreed upon that date.

The Department desires you to inform the Government to which you are accredited of the present status of this matter and to say that it is the view of this Government that unless the Powers participating in and adhering to the resolution unanimously agree upon the suggestion of the Chinese Government that the extraterritorial meeting be convened on November 1st next it will be impracticable for such meeting to take place. You are, therefore, instructed to request the Government to which you are accredited definitely to state whether it desires to proceed with the holding of the meeting on November 1st, and if not, to state whether it is agreeable to a postponement to November 1, 1924, provided that such date is acceptable to the Chinese Government.

Repeat the above to London, Rome, The Hague, Brussels, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Madrid.

  1. See last paragraph for instructions to repeat to Brussels, Copenhagen, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Borne, Stockholm, and The Hague. Sent also to Lima and Tokyo, with the omission of the last paragraph.
  2. See footnote 60, p. 621.