393.1163 P 92/50

The American Ambassador in China (Johnson) to the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs (Chang Ch’un)55

No. 103

Excellency: I have the honor to refer to the general subject of the rights of American citizens to acquire title to land in China, and to inform you that the Municipality of Greater Shanghai, apparently acting on the basis of a misinterpretation of Articles II and VI of the Provisional Regulations Governing the Lease of Land and Buildings by Foreign Missionary Societies in the Interior, has recently refused to issue a lease in perpetuity for land recently acquired by the American Presbyterian Mission, North, in Nantao, Shanghai. The position of the Municipal Government was outlined in its letter No. 7336 of September 18, 1936, replying to a letter from the American Consulate General at Shanghai dated August 3, 1936. Copies of these two letters are enclosed for Your Excellency’s ready reference.56

It is observed that there exists no question of the right of American missionary organizations to lease land in perpetuity in China for missionary purposes. As noted in Your Excellency’s formal note of May 22, 1936,57 in regard to the allied question of the re-registration of land belonging to American missions in the Nanking Municipality, the last section of Article XIV of the Sino-American Treaty of 190358 clearly provides that “missionary societies of the United States shall be permitted to rent and lease in perpetuity, as the properties of such societies, buildings or lands in all parts of the Empire for missionary purposes.” It was in recognition of this fact that the Ministry of the Interior, in its communication under date December 9, 1935, instructed the Kiangsu Provincial Government that the term of the lease of land by foreign missions is regarded as unlimited, and that agreements for leases in perpetuity therefore might be concluded. As noted in that communication, which was printed in the Internal Affairs Gazette of December 1935 (Vol. VIII, No. 22), the Executive [Page 670] Yuan issued on September 7, 1933, an instruction (No. 4162) to the various provincial and municipal governments to this effect.

Inasmuch, therefore, as the above-mentioned case at Shanghai has evidently arisen merely from a misconception of the significance of the Provisional Regulations on the part of the local authorities, who have neglected to give appropriate consideration to the treaty provisions and the position of the National Government in regard to the subject, it is respectfully requested that Your Excellency cause an appropriate instruction to the Municipal Government to be issued, directing that the desired lease in perpetuity be issued to the American Presbyterian Mission.59

I avail myself [etc.]

Nelson Trusler Johnson
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in China in his despatch No. 813, October 27; received November 30.
  2. Neither printed.
  3. Not found in Department files.
  4. Signed at Shanghai, October 8, 1903; Foreign Relations, 1903, p. 91.
  5. The Ambassador in China in his despatch No. 966, January 8, 1937, reported that “in accordance with the instructions received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese authorities have expressed themselves as prepared to issue the perpetual lease in question.” (393.1163P92/51.)