The Secretary of State to the Chargé in China (Perkins)

No. 1415

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 2343, dated September 20, 1929, enclosing a copy of despatch No. 6133, dated September 13, 1929, from the Consul General at Shanghai75 setting forth the view that American citizens of the Chinese race should be advised by American consular officers to obtain certificates of expatriation from the Chinese Ministry of the Interior. The Consul General also suggests that, in this event, the Legation should inform the Minister for Foreign Affairs that such persons are being advised to apply for [Page 522] these certificates in accordance with the Chinese Nationality Law promulgated on February 5, 1929.

It is noted that, according to the translation supplied by the Consul General of Article 12 of the Chinese Nationality Law, among those classes of persons who are not allowed to renounce their citizenship are those who have attained military age, who are not relieved of military service or who have not served in the Army. It is also noted that the translation of Article 14 of the Law states as follows:

“Whoever loses his or her citizenship loses such rights and privileges as are enjoyable by no one other than a Chinese citizen. If the loser of Chinese citizenship has enjoyed such rights and privileges prior to the loss thereof, the rights and privileges in respect to property shall revert to the State Treasury unless they are assigned to a Chinese citizen within one year after their loss.”

It would appear to the Department that if the provision of Article 12 referred to above were strictly enforced it would prevent numbers of American citizens of the Chinese race from renouncing their Chinese citizenship. Article 14, quoted above, would appear to place persons who have renounced their Chinese citizenship under certain disabilities with regard to the property which they may hold in China. In these circumstances the Department is of the opinion that consular officers should exercise caution in advising American citizens of the Chinese race to apply for certificates of expatriation. It is believed that when advice on this subject is requested consular officers should confine themselves to pointing out the pertinent provisions of the law, leaving it to the persons concerned to decide for themselves whether or not to apply for these certificates.

The Department concurs in your view that no notification should be sent by the Legation to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the sort suggested by the Consul General. It concurs, also, in your opinion that applications for certificates of expatriation should be filed directly by the persons concerned with the appropriate Chinese authorities, and not through the Legation.

In this connection, you are referred to the Department’s instruction No. 973 of August 31, 1928,77 enclosing a copy of the Department’s instruction of May 22, 1928, to the Consul General at Canton,78 to the effect that American citizens of the Chinese race, when applying for registration or passports at American consulates should be encouraged, although not required, to obtain and submit certificates of expatriation from the Chinese authorities. In the light of the provisions of the Nationality Law referred to above, the advisability of continuing this [Page 523] practice appears open to question. Unless therefore there are apparent to you reasons for not doing so, you are instructed to inform consular officers that they should not encourage American citizens of the Chinese race to apply for these certificates, but merely, if it appears advisable to discuss the subject, invite their attention to the pertinent portions of the Nationality Law.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Nelson Trusler Johnson