The American Minister in China (Johnson) to the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs (Lo)74

No. 629

Excellency: I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that my attention has been drawn by the American Consul General at Shanghai to the “Provisional Regulations for the Control of Inter-provincial Motor Vehicle Traffic in Kiangsu, Chekiang, Anhwei, and the Municipalities of Nanking and Shanghai”, promulgated December 15, 1932, to be enforced from January 1, 1933.

Article 17 of these regulations provides as follows:

“17. When driven in another province or municipality, motor vehicles shall obey all local traffic regulations. In case of infractions, [Page 624]they shall be fined according to the provincial or municipal rules in force at the place where the offense was committed. If the offending vehicle has left the province or municipality in which lies the place where the offense was committed, the traffic office of the province or municipality wherein the owner resides, upon receipt of a notice, may impose the penalty on its behalf.”

As the above article provides for the imposition of penalties for infraction of the regulations by the authorities of the municipality or province where the offense was committed, the American Consul General at Shanghai addressed communications to the Chairman of the Provinces of Chekiang and Kiangsu, and to the Mayor of the Municipality of Shanghai, stating that, while he wished to express his admiration of the work which was being done by the municipal and provincial authorities toward the extension of roads, and to give assurances that steps had been taken to urge upon all American citizens the necessity for compliance with the traffic rules in force in the various places, at the same time he was compelled to point out his inability to acquiesce in the punishment by the Chinese authorities by fines, or otherwise, of American citizens who may contravene the traffic rules.

The Chairman of the Chekiang Provincial Government, in his reply to the Consul General, quoted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the effect that:

“While the punishment of foreigners who enjoy extraterritorial rights is done heretofore according to treaties by their respective courts in China, it is certainly not impracticable to fine foreigners motoring on inland highways for contravention of highway regulations which is found somewhat different, in nature, from ordinary cases at law.”

This reply of the Chairman of the Chekiang Provincial Government quoting Your Excellency’s Ministry as his authority for his claim to jurisdiction over American citizens for infractions of these regulations causes me considerable concern. Your Excellency is well aware of the Sino-American treaty provisions giving jurisdiction in such cases to the courts of the nationality of the offender, and it is difficult to understand how such an instruction could emanate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While assuring Your Excellency of the readiness of the American authorities to take appropriate action in all cases where infractions by American citizens of the traffic rules in question are brought to their attention, I am impelled to request that instructions be issued to the provincial and municipal authorities concerned directing that existing treaty provisions be taken into consideration in their efforts to enforce these regulations.

[Page 625]

I shall greatly appreciate the courtesy of an early reply informing me that appropriate instructions have been issued to the authorities concerned.

I avail myself [etc.]

Nelson Trusler Johnson
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Minister in China in his despatch No. 2225, August 2; received September 1.