893.114 Narcotics/1971

The Consul General at Shanghai (Gauss) to the Ambassador in China (Johnson)42

No. 811

Sir: I have the honor to enclose,43 for the information and consideration of the Embassy, a copy of the Chinese text together with an English translation of a letter dated April 26, 1937, received from the Acting Mayor of the Municipality of Greater Shanghai on the subject of opium suppression. A booklet containing English translations of twelve sets of opium and narcotic laws and regulations enclosed with the above mentioned letter is also transmitted for the Embassy’s information.

It will be noted that the Acting Mayor’s communication quotes an instruction received from the President (General Chiang Kai-shek) of the Military Council of the National Government and concurrently Director General of Opium Suppression. The Generalissimo calls attention to the fact that “the number of Chinese opium smokers and consumers living in the foreign concessions (Shanghai) is quite large,” and asserts that the authorities of the “foreign concessions” [Page 695]should cooperate in seeing that Chinese opium addicts observe the Chinese opium suppression laws and ordinances. General Chiang’s instruction proceeds, “cooperation should also be given in the matter of compliance by opium addicts with regulations to purchase and smoke opium on the basis of permits,” and explains that “opium addicts living in the foreign concessions who have obtained such permits may temporarily purchase, for purposes of smoking, from the specially licensed opium hongs and retailers established outside the foreign concessions, opium bearing the revenue stamps issued by the Opium Suppression Supervisory Bureau or prepared opium covered by the invoices of opium hongs.” Reference is also made to the question of the sale and transportation in the “foreign concessions” of so-called “illicit opium bearing no revenue stamps” and to those opium addicts smoking opium without permits, and finally to opium addicts possessing permits but smoking “illicit opium.” Cases of this nature, it is stated, should be “turned over to the law courts for punishment according to the law.” The instruction concludes with the statement that the Judicial Yuan has been ordered to issue appropriate instructions to the Special District Courts at Shanghai and directs the Acting Mayor to communicate with the various Consuls and to “submit for our examination and consideration a report setting forth the substance of the replies received from the various Consuls.”

This communication was considered by the Consular Body at its meeting on May fourth and Mr. Fessenden, Secretary General of the Shanghai Municipal Council, who had been invited to attend, was asked to express his views on the general question of opium suppression in the Settlement. Mr. Fessenden stated that the problem was a very complex one, that without proper safeguards abuses would creep in and that, therefore, the Council would not depart from its policy of giving the subject very careful consideration before any decisions were made. He said, furthermore, that if any opium licenses were issued the Council would probably insist on issuing them and that if an arrangement were contemplated with the Chinese authorities the Council would probably consult the Consular Body about it. With reference to the question of the enforcement of the new opium laws on persons in the Settlement who are amenable to Chinese jurisdiction, Mr. Fessenden said it would be difficult to prevent the enforcement of these laws by the Chinese courts but pointed out that the Council would have to proceed cautiously since by consenting to licensing it would undoubtedly “bring a great deal of criticism on its head from missionaries and welfare bodies.”

In this latter connection attention is invited to my despatch No. 576 of January 21, 1937,44 in which was set forth the opinion of the [Page 696]Municipal Advocate of the Shanghai Municipal Council that inasmuch as the provisional regulations governing the punishment of offenders against opium and narcotic suppression laws have been duly enacted and promulgated by the Chinese Government and do not appear to contravene the terms of Article 2 of the Court Rendition Agreement of February 17, 1930,45 the Shanghai Municipal Council has no option but to permit their application in the district court located in the International Settlement. It will be recalled, however, the Municipal Advocate pointed out that the administrative provisions of these regulations were not being enforced, particularly the requirements governing the registration of narcotic and opium addicts.

It was decided by the Consular Body (Circular No. 70–G–IV) that a copy of the Acting Mayor’s communication should be forwarded to the Council requesting an expression of its views, and that identic replies should be made to the Acting Mayor upon receipt of the Council’s reply and after further consideration of this question by the Consular Body. It was also agreed that the matter should be reported to the Diplomatic Body for possible reference to Geneva.

It appears to me that General Chiang’s indirect request for the cooperation of the Settlement and French Concession authorities in the enforcement of the provisions of the new opium and narcotic suppression laws and regulations is concerned less with the question of suppression than with the problem of forcing addicts to purchase permits and their supplies of opium from bureaus and hongs licensed by the Government and to prevent the sale or transportation within the International Settlement and French Concession of “illicit opium,” that is opium other than that controlled and taxed by the Opium Suppression Bureau. In short the real motive appears to be to increase revenues by drawing within the orbit of the Opium Suppression Bureau the opium traffic in the Settlement and French Concession. Nevertheless, consideration must be given to the fact that complete refusal to cooperate would be cited by the Chinese Government and its representatives at Geneva as evidence of the constant thwarting by the foreign consular and Settlement authorities of Shanghai of China’s efforts to eradicate the opium and narcotic evils. Therefore, two courses appear possible. The one would be to agree to the enforcement by the Settlement and French Concession authorities of Chinese opium and narcotic laws and regulations against those amenable to Chinese jurisdiction. The other course would be to make no attempt to reply to the specific request contained in General Chiang’s instruction to the Acting Mayor but to stress the desire of the Consular Body and of the Council to cooperate in [Page 697]the suppression of the traffic in opium and narcotics and to give fairly detailed information concerning the efforts being made and the measures adopted by the Settlement authorities to suppress the traffic. Attention might also be called to the fact that offenders are being constantly apprehended by the Settlement police and turned over to the Special District Courts where the new opium and narcotic laws and regulations are being applied. I am inclined to favor the second course of action for the reason, firstly, that I feel this request for cooperation is not genuinely concerned with the question of suppressing the opium and narcotic traffic in the Settlement and French Concession; and secondly, that it is doubtful whether the enforcement of the administrative provisions of the Chinese opium law would assist the Settlement authorities in the fairly satisfactory efforts being made by them to suppress the traffic in drugs and opium; on the contrary it might conceivably gradually undermine the Council’s administrative rights and powers.

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Consul General at Shanghai in his despatch No. 779, May 18; received June 16.
  2. Enclosures not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. ii, pp. 333, 334.