The Secretary of State to the Minister in China (Johnson)
165. Your 317, May 9, 4 p.m. Unless the Legation has already taken a different position at a meeting of the diplomatic representatives concerned, the Department desires that the Legation express there the opinion that the regulations cannot be considered applicable to American citizens at this time. Information received by the Department indicates that a large proportion of the local provincial authorities to whom power is given to enforce these regulations are not subject to any effective supervision by the Central authority and are themselves incapable of effectively guaranteeing protection to American citizens. Moreover, Department is unwilling to concede that such local or provincial authorities may rightfully be authorized to confiscate arms possessed by American citizens for self-defense unless arms have been illegally imported or to detain such American citizens while reports are being submitted to higher Chinese authorities. The Department believes that the Legation should inform the Chinese Foreign Office that the question of the applicability of the regulations to American citizens in China has been referred to the American Government and that, pending receipt of instructions, the regulations cannot be regarded as so applicable.[Page 621]
Department desires that you inform the American Minister by telegraph of these views and that the Department does not believe it advisable to transmit these regulations to American citizens in China for their guidance, since compliance with the regulations by American citizens would seem to constitute a recognition of the right of the Chinese Government, acting through the local and provincial authorities, to confiscate American property and to subject American citizens to detention without legal process.