393.1121 Smit, Albert H./18: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in China (Johnson)

92. Your 171, March 4, 2 p.m. It is presumed that American consular officers in China have advised American citizens in the general sense of the Department’s telegrams No. 435 of December 31, noon,13 No. 4 of January 4, 7 p.m., and No. 49 of February 8, 1 p.m.14

With a view to ensuring a clear understanding on the part of American citizens concerned, with regard to the legal status of American citizens in China and the American Government’s position, the Department is communicating to American missionary interests in the United States a statement of its position; and the Department desires that the Legation transmit the same to the American consular officers in China for communication to American citizens resident in the various consular districts. Text follows:

“In view of apparent uncertainty and some misapprehensions on the part of American citizens with regard to the present legal status of American nationals resident in China, you are informed that the Department of State does not regard the action taken by the Chinese Government on December 28 and December 30, 1929, as having altered the legal status of American citizens in China.

The question of gradual relinquishment by the United States of rights of extraterritorial jurisdiction in China is at present a subject of study between the two Governments. As yet, no agreement has been arrived at; there has been no surrender by the American Government to the Chinese Government of the former’s rights of jurisdiction over American citizens in China or of the rights of American citizens, under the treaties, in China. It is apparent that enjoyment of these rights is not in all cases insisted upon and that various American nationals or American organizations have in a number of cases and on various grounds refrained from availing themselves of their rights. However, in point of law, these rights remain unimpaired and, as heretofore, American citizens in China, in all cases in which they are defendants, continue to be subject exclusively to the jurisdiction of American courts administering the applicable laws of the United States.

In the event that Chinese authorities attempt to take jurisdiction over an American citizen, notification should be made immediately to the American consular officer for the district in which such attempt is made, in order that appropriate action may be taken by the American consular officer concerned.”