393.1163 Property/1: Telegram

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

591. 1. The following regulations have been communicated by the Nanking and Shantung Commissioners of Foreign Affairs to Paxton and Price, respectively, with the statement that they have been received from the National Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, together with the Ministries of Interior and Justice, has drawn them up. The Shantung Commissioner also requested that American missions be at once instructed to report all the properties.

“Provisional regulations governing the lease of land and buildings in the interior by foreign missionary societies.

  • “Article 1. Any foreign missionary society, which establishes churches, hospitals, or schools in the interior under the provision of the treaties existing between respective countries and China may, in the name of the missionary society, lease land for building purposes or lease or purchase buildings.
  • “Article 2. Foreign missionary societies which lease land in the interior for building purposes, or lease or purchase buildings, shall submit both to existing Chinese laws, taxes and such as may hereafter be established.
  • “Article 3. Foreign missionary societies, which lease land in the interior for building purposes or lease or purchase buildings, must, together with the owner of the property, report to the appropriate authorities for approval before the deeds may be considered valid.
  • “Article 4. In the event that the area of land leased in the interior to a foreign missionary society for building purposes or buildings [Page 577]leased or bought by a foreign missionary society exceeds the area necessary, the appropriate local authorities shall not approve the transaction.
  • “Article 5. If it is discovered that a foreign missionary society has leased land in the interior or leased or purchased buildings with a view to gaining profits thereby or for commercial purposes, the authorities shall prohibit or cancel such lease or purchases.
  • “Article 6. Before the enforcement of these provisional regulations, foreign missionary societies should report all land or buildings in the interior already occupied by them to the appropriate authorities. In case the land has already been purchased, such purchase shall only be construed as right of lease in perpetuity.
  • “Article 7. These provisional regulations shall become effective from the date of official publication.”

2. Although, on the surface, these regulations are seemingly not unreasonable, they contain several provisions pregnant with possibilities for difficulties, the principal of which are as follows:

  • First, in article 2, the Chinese text distinctly indicates that the “foreign missionary societies” and not the land which are to be subject to Chinese law, and while this phrasing may have been due to careless drafting, its effect would be to deprive American missions of their extraterritorial rights in the interior.
  • Second, in article 3, the clause “for building purposes” would, if strictly enforced, preclude the securing of land for any other objects, such as recreation grounds for schools and agricultural experiment fields.
  • Third, article 4 would authorize the local authorities, whom past experience has shown to be often hostile and unfair, to block all new work by refusing to permit the acquisition of adequate land.
  • Fourth, article 5, if arbitrarily interpreted, might not only be used to prevent the conduct of industrial schools, which frequently sell commodities made or raised, but even result in confiscation of existing rights in land.
  • Fifth, article 6, although less vital, contravenes the right to hold property in fee simple conferred by the Berthemy Convention of February 20th, 1865 (copy of which has just been furnished me by the French Chargé d’Affaires and is being forwarded by pouch).60

3. In view of the above considerations the Department’s instructions are requested as to the attitude to be taken towards these regulations. It is suggested that the Legation be authorized to inform the Nationalist Government that while willing that American missions [Page 578]should submit to all reasonable regulations it is unable to recognize these regulations as applicable to American institutions and nationals insofar as they either contravene rights conferred by the treaties or imply a right to confiscate legitimate American interests.

  1. Telegram in two sections.
  2. Not printed; for summary of agreement, see Sir Edward Hertslet, Treaties, &c., Great Britain and China; and Between China and Foreign Powers; … in Force on the 1st January, 1896 (London, 1896), vol. ii. p. 711. For a summary by the French Minister in China (Gérard), on Apr. 30, 1895, see France, Ministère des affaires étrangères, Documents diplomatiques, Chine, 1894–1898 (Paris, 1898), p. 6.