706.6193/2: Telegram

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


209. On June 27 the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs answered the note of June 11 from the Dutch Minister regarding the transfer [Page 445] of the premises of the Russian Legation to the Government of the Soviet Union. An informal conference of the representatives of the protocol powers will consider the reply tomorrow. The crucial points of the Chinese note follow:76

  • “1. In reply I have the honor to observe that the assumption by the foreign representatives of the signatories of the protocol of 1901 of the responsibility of guarding the buildings and premises of the former Russian Legation in Peking was an act undertaken by the said representatives without the consent of the Chinese Government, although it was occasioned by the recognition [termination] of the then, Russian diplomatic representative [representation] in Peking decreed by a Presidential mandate of the Republic under the date of September 23rd, 1920.
  • 2. How long such custody on the part of the said diplomatic representatives should last is a question which in its origin does not fall within the discretion of the said representatives but must rather depend upon the decision of China to decree [restore] such relations with the new Russian Government.
  • 3. Your Excellency’s suggestion to consider the question of handing over the former Russian Legation only on a request addressed to the foreign representatives by a Russian representative duly accredited to the Chinese Government appears to overlook the special interest of the Chinese Government to see the premises of the former Russian Legation promptly handed back to an authorized representative of the Russian Government. It will be recalled that the Diplomatic Quarter, though under the control of the foreign legations by the protocol of 1901, remains part of Chinese territory and that the premises of the Russian Legation, though situated in the said quarter, are themselves not subject to the control of the representatives of other powers. Indeed they cannot be subject to such control, as they are the property of a foreign power with which China has reestablished diplomatic relations and which Is anxious to take possession of the Legation through its authorized representative for use as its Legation. In asking for the delivery of the said premises to an authorized representative of the Soviet Government, the Chinese Government sought only to extend to a foreign government that act of friendly assistance which international courtesy expected of China to do in order to facilitate the establishment of [a] diplomatic representative [representation] which it has agreed to receive. They feel the more concerned because, as I may add for your information, it is their desire to discharge an obligation which they have undertaken vis-à-vis the Soviet Government in the Sino-Russian agreement of May 31, 1924.
  • 4. They are further inclined to the view that the conventional status of the Diplomatic Quarter should not make it difficult for the foreign representatives to comply with the request of the Chinese Government, since they have not asked to take control themselves of the said premises but have requested only to have them delivered to an authorized representative of the Soviet Government.
  • 5. I hope the more sincerely that Your Excellency will see your way to arrange for compliance with this request, as any other course [Page 446] of action in the present case would not only embarrass the Chinese Government in their desire to extend every courtesy and facility prescribed by international usage to the representatives of foreign government[s] maintaining amicable relations with China, but would also appear to prejudice the right of foreign powers to establish their Legations on Chinese territory free from any condition other than the consent of the Chinese Government.”

  1. Text of Chinese note not paraphrased.