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

No. 133

Sir: Referring to the Legation’s telegram No. 173, of March 4, 1930, 7 p.m.,77 in regard to action taken by the American Consul General at Canton in connection with the reported intention of the Chinese authorities at Canton to deport G. Edward Lyon, an American correspondent, you are informed that the Department believes that caution should be exercised against giving ground for the belief that the American Government will be able to obtain for American correspondents and publishers of newspapers in China the freedom of action that they might enjoy in similar circumstances in the United States. The right to pursue these two vocations in China does not appear to be specifically granted by treaty and claim to the right apparently must rest upon general provisions of treaties such as the authorization given to American citizens to “pursue any lawful avocation” in localities opened to foreign residence, contained in Article III of the Treaty of 1903 between the United States and China,78 and upon the stipulations governing extraterritoriality.

Aside from the question whether under the treaties American correspondents and publishers in China may claim the right to pursue their vocations unhampered by the Chinese Government and by Chinese laws and administrative orders applicable to persons who do not possess extraterritorial status, it must be recognized, as a possibility, that the determined opposition of the Chinese authorities might make the successful practice of these professions difficult if not actually impossible. The Department desires, of course, to exercise its good offices to obtain for American correspondents and publishers in China full enjoyment of their legal rights, but correspondents and publishers [Page 564] should be informed, when occasion requires, that if they choose to participate in discussions of Chinese political affairs or become involved therein the American Government may not be in position to intervene effectively on their behalf when they find themselves in difficulties with the Chinese.

The Department approves the proposal of the Legation to forward to the Consul General at Canton copies of the correspondence in the Abend case and a statement of the present status of that incident, and suggests that copies of this instruction be sent to all consular offices in China.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
J. P. Cotton
  1. Not printed.
  2. Signed at Shanghai, October 8, 1903; Foreign Relations, 1903, p. 91.