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

No. 600

Sir: The Department acknowledges the receipt of the Legation’s despatches No. 923 of February 15, 1927, and No. 1028 of May 10, 1927,50 regarding the “Regulations Governing Private Schools” issued by the Educational Department of the Cantonese Government and transmitted to the Legation by the American Vice Consul in charge at Swatow. The Legation requests the Department’s instructions concerning the attitude to be assumed by the Legation and by consular officers in China in case attempts are made to enforce these or similar regulations on schools conducted by American missionary and educational societies. It is the understanding of the Department that the regulations in question are not uniform throughout China, and also that the missionary and educational groups concerned have been unable to reach a uniform decision regarding the action to be taken thereon, some groups having conformed to the regulations and made application for registration; while others are conducting their schools without registering.

The Department considers that each group should be free to decide for itself whether or not it will conduct its educational work in accordance with local Chinese regulations. On the other hand the fact that the missionary boards are incorporated under American law or are composed of American citizens and, therefore, are under [Page 570] American extraterritorial jurisdiction, would appear to make it optional with the missionary board whether it will comply with Chinese laws and regulations by registering its schools with the Chinese authorities. An attempt on the part of the Chinese authorities to enforce school regulations against an American missionary board without its consent would appear to be contrary not only to those provisions of the treaties referred to in the Department’s instruction No. 830 of February 2, 1925,51 but also to the general extraterritorial provisions as well. Should such an attempt be made and should consular assistance be sought, the consul concerned should make representations to the proper Chinese authorities insisting upon the treaty right of the American institution to exercise its volition in the matter of registration. The Department considers, however, that the Legation and Consulates should refrain from any action with reference to the enforcement of regulations of this character except when their assistance is sought by the missionary or educational group concerned.

It is desired that the foregoing be communicated to the Consular officers in China for their information and guidance.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Robert E. Olds
  1. Neither printed.
  2. The text of this instruction to the Minister in China (393.116/329) is as follows:

    “Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 2578 of November 5, 1924 [not printed], in which you state that a request has been received from Consul George C. Hanson at Harbin for instructions as to whether the East Siberian Union Mission of the Seventh Day Adventists, an American missionary organization, should comply with the regulations of the ‘Municipal Administration for the Special Area of the Manchurian Provinces’ in connection with the opening of a school by the mission at Imienpo. Reference is also made to the Legation’s despatch No. 1519 of August 18, 1921 [not printed], in regard to regulations issued by the Ministry of Education to govern the registration of schools established by foreign missionary societies.

    “The Department is of the opinion that American missionary societies are not subject to regulations of the Chinese authorities involving control of the curricula of schools established by them, the exercise of such control being, apparently, inconsistent with the provisions of Article XXIX of the Sino-American Treaty of 1858 [treaty of peace, amity and commerce concluded June 18, 1858, Malloy, Treaties, vol. i, p. 220], Article VII of the Sino-American Treaty of 1868 [treaty of trade, consuls and emigration concluded July 28, 1868, op. cit., p. 236] and Article XIV of the Sino-American Treaty of 1903 [treaty as to commercial relations concluded Oct. 8, 1903, op. cit., p. 268].

    “I am [etc.]

    Charles E. Hughes”