393.1121 Libby, Walter/3

The American Minister in China ( MacMurray ) to the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs ( C. T. Wang )94

No. 869

Excellency: I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that in a telegram dated September 1, 1929,95 the American Consul General at Hankow has informed me of the attempt of the Chinese authorities at Nanchang, Kiangsi, to arrest Dr. Walter Libby, an American citizen, of the Nanchang General Hospital of the Methodist Mission, on a charge of causing the death of a fifteen year old Chinese boy.

It appears that the boy in question was in a seriously run-down condition when first brought to the hospital, where he was twice operated on by Dr. Libby for boils. Becoming dissatisfied with the handling of the case, the father of the boy took him home and summoned Chinese doctors to treat him. Three days later, on May 9, 1929, the boy died. In the light of subsequent developments in this case, I desire to bring to Your Excellency’s attention the following significant facts:

There is in Nanchang a medical association consisting of Chinese doctors in the city, certain of whom have some knowledge of Western medical practice, and one of whom, at least, was discharged from the [Page 506] Nanchang General Hospital several years ago because of conduct which made it impossible for the Methodist Mission to retain his services. He has been an enemy of the hospital ever since this time, and this whole group of doctors has in a number of instances endeavored to discredit the work of the hospital, which in its philanthropic work accepts hundreds of patients who would otherwise go to them. It appears that the father of the boy who died was acquainted with certain of the doctors in the medical association, and that subsequently to the boy’s death, they persuaded him, after a delay of three weeks, to write a letter to Dr. Libby blaming him for the death of the boy. There then ensued a very active agitation against Dr. Libby and the hospital, this including the wide-spread distribution of printed circulars attacking Dr. Libby and those connected with him in his work. In this agitation the Chinese practitioner who had been discharged by the hospital several years ago was extremely active.

This agitation culminated in the summoning, on August 27th, of Dr. Libby and Dr. Wu, Superintendent of the hospital, to appear before the Nanchang Local Court on the grave charge of “manslaughter and concealment of proof”. Dr. Libby, being an American citizen and not subject to the jurisdiction of this Chinese court, declined to go and proceeded to Hankow, where he personally reported the case in detail to the American Consul General, who promptly lodged telegraphic protest with the Nanchang authorities, informing them that, if the father of the boy had any grievance against Dr. Libby, he had recourse to the American judicial authorities.

Dr. Wu, the Chinese Superintendent of the hospital, appeared in court, however, as directed, and testified that he had nothing to do with the case and so was not in a position to surrender the American hospital’s medical history of the case, as directed by the Nanchang Court. According to the latest advices received by the American Consul General at Hankow on September 4th, the Court had then ordered the Chinese Superintendent of the hospital to produce the medical record of the case within a period of three days.

I bring this case to the attention of Your Excellency with the request that you will issue appropriate instructions to the Nanchang authorities, informing them that, if the father of the deceased boy has any grievance against Dr. Libby, the matter should be referred to the American judicial authorities (as notified to the Nanchang authorities by Consul General Lockhart), and that they (the Nanchang authorities) should follow established procedure and desist from their efforts to take direct jurisdiction over this American citizen or the Nanchang General Hospital, which is an American institution and, as such, subject solely to the jurisdiction of the American Courts.

I avail myself [etc.]

J. V. A. MacMurray
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Minister in his despatch No. 2320, September 13, 1929; received October 11.
  2. Not printed.