811.5034 China—Searchlight Publishing Co./19: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Consul General at Shanghai (Cunningham)

230. Your 353, July 29, 5 p.m.18

The New York Times under date July 30 carries as a special cable from Shanghai under date July 29 an article, the first paragraph of which is as follows:

“For the first time in the history of Chino-American relations the United States Government is threatening to withdraw the protection of extraterritorial rights from an American citizen, leaving him to trial in the Chinese courts on serious charges carrying the possibility of life imprisonment or even the death penalty.”

Many inquiries are being addressed to the Department in relation to the Isaacs case. The Department assumes that you have correctly interpreted its instruction of July 20 and that any action which you have taken is in conformity with its terms. In its telegram 223, July 20, 4 p.m., the Department stated that you should inform Mr. Isaacs that if the present policy of his publication is continued, the registration of the Searchlight Publishing Company as an American enterprise would be cancelled and this Government would not intervene to prevent action by the Chinese authorities against his publication for the purpose of suppressing it. This instruction contemplates a refusal to intervene in case Chinese authorities should choose to take administrative action to suppress Mr. Isaacs’ publication. It of course would involve no denial of the extraterritorial status in China of an American citizen, and no denial of the protection as regards his person or his property in case the Chinese authorities should attempt to bring action, criminal or civil, against him. It would not render him liable to arrest or his property liable to seizure except under orders issued from the United States Court for China.
The Department assumes that such is your understanding, but for absolute assurance, and to enable it to reply intelligently to inquiries made here, it desires confirmation and an adequate report, by naval radio, with regard to developments and action taken by your office in this case. The Department needs to have this information by Monday19 morning Washington time.
For your confidential information, Department is reliably informed [Page 657] that Isaacs’ father is out of sympathy with his son’s activities, as reported, and has even inquired whether American Government might not have him sent home. On the other hand, certain organizations, which need not be characterized, seem intent on making it appear that an American citizen is being persecuted because of courageous exercise of the right of freedom of speech.
  1. Not printed.
  2. August 1.