The Consul at Foochow (Sokobin) to the Secretary of State

No. 321

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of a note which the Consular Body at this port addressed on January 8th to the Defence Commissioner, a local military official, protesting the action of a censor appointed by the Commissioner in detaining for seven hours telegrams despatched by the several consuls on January 7th, 1930, to their respective Legations at Peiping. Among the telegrams detained was one handed by this Consulate to the telegraph office at 10.30 a.m. on January 7th and which the censor detained until 5 p.m. of the same day.

The censor appeared without notice at the office of the telegraph company mentioned, accompanied by a guard, early on the morning of January 7th. The previous evening certain Chinese military effected a coup d’état in Foochow, described in the enclosure of this Consulate’s despatch No. 320 of January 7th, 1930 (File 800),17 subject: Coup d’état in Foochow; the action of the censor was a concomitant of the coup.

[Page 638]

The telegram sent by this Consulate was addressed to the American Legation, Peiping; it was in gray code and bore the impression of the Consulate’s date stamp, as follows:

American Consulate

Jan. 10 1930

Foochow, China

The telegram form was also signed by myself over the words “American Consul”, in a space provided for signature. The message in fact briefly reported the arrest of several members of the Fukien Provincial Administrative Council, the constituted provincial governing authority.

The note sent by the Senior Consul was drafted by this office; the Department will recognize as a basis thereof the text used in Hyde’s International Law, vol. I, page 799. The Consulate ventures to hope that its action in joining in the protest is approved by the Department.

I have [etc.]

Samuel Sokobin

The Japanese Consul General and Senior Consul at Foochow (Tamura) to the Chinese Defence Commissioner at Foochow (Liu Chung)

Sir: Acting on my own behalf as Japanese Consul General, and on behalf of my Colleagues of the Consular Body at this port, I have the honor to lodge a protest against the action of a censor, under your orders, in preventing the transmission of telegraphic messages over the lines of the Eastern Extension Australasia and China Telegraph Company, Ltd., sent by members of the Consular Body to their respective Legations at Peiping. Not until the censor was ordered to leave the premises of the telegraph company by H. B. M. Consul, did the messages go forward, after a detention of seven hours.

Under international law a consular officer has the right of free communication with his own government and with the diplomatic and consular representatives of his government stationed in the same territory; the consular officer may use the post or telegraph and he may send his messages in cipher. The detention of an official communication from a consular officer to his Legation is a violation of international law and in order that a similar occurrence may not again happen, I have the honor to request that you take special note of this protest and that you give the Consular Body an assurance that official communications despatched by members of the Consular Body will not in the future be interfered with in any way, and that such communications [Page 639] will be given the due respect they are entitled to under international law.

I have [etc.]

Teijtro Tamura
  1. Not printed.