393.115/590: Telegram

The Counselor of Embassy in China (Lockhart) to the Secretary of State

148. Following from Tokyo:

“143, March 23, 9 p.m. For Department with your appropriate comment and for Tientsin.

(1) My British colleague today referred to a meeting of the Consular Body at Tientsin on March 16 at which the American, British and French consular representatives, in the presence of the Japanese Consul, are reported to have stated that they must protest in the strongest terms against searching of their respective nationals and confiscation of old currency notes at the instance of Japanese authorities. American, Belgian and British nationals are reported to have been searched already. The British Consul General has recommended that a protest in the strongest possible terms should be made by the governments concerned. Craigie feels that unless such protest [Page 167] be made in Tokyo this situation will go from bad to worse and inquires whether I will act in concert with himself and our French colleague.

(2) The following further report dated March 18 has been received by Craigie from the British Consul General in Tientsin:

‘On preliminary verbal protest being made to the Japanese Consul the latter expressed surprise that the Japanese sentries should have taken part in the searching. Searching was being done by Chinese police and the Japanese sentries were merely to be present to avoid dishonesty.

Search took place at the race course road entrance to the British Concession and it was in fact the Japanese sentry who compelled British subject (Lanyon, newly arrived agent of Butterfield and Swire) to hand over his notes ($40) and it was he who actually received and pocketed them. It appears probable from remarks made by the Japanese Consul that in future Chinese police only will do searching and that the Japanese will take the line that they are not actively concerned. This argument is of course fantastic and the Japanese Consul was told so.’

(3) I have received no report from our Consul General in Tientsin concerning this subject.

(4) Please instruct.”

The extraterritorial rights of American citizens resident in China not having been extinguished by the Japanese military occupation, I see no reason why Ambassador Grew should not lodge a protest at Tokyo denying the right of the Japanese to search for any reason whatsoever American citizens residing in this country or to seize their property or to circumscribe their lawful activities. While there has been but one case reported at Tientsin of the search of an American (see Tientsin’s 35, March 16, 5 p.m.49) a protest at Tokyo might be the means of discouraging if not preventing searches of Americans or interference with their business or other normal activities especially in view of the assurance contained in Tientsin’s 28, March 9, 5 p.m.50
Inasmuch as the situation of the British and French Governments is somewhat different from that of the American Government by virtue of the existence thereof the British and French Concessions there would seem to be especially good reason to hold aloof from identifying ourselves too strongly with the British and French action in this instance and to confine representations if made to the principle set forth in paragraph 1 above.
With reference to paragraph 3 of the Tokyo message herein quoted, Tientsin’s 28, March 5 [9], 5 p.m., was repeated to Tokyo by Tientsin and Tientsin’s 35, March 16, 5 p.m. was mailed to Tokyo by Tientsin and Department’s 15 [14], March 21, 7 p.m., to Tientsin51 [Page 168] was sent by air mail to Tokyo by the Embassy on March 22. Tientsin’s 43, March 23, 6 p.m. sent to Tokyo today by airmail.

Repeated to Tientsin code text of this message, excluding quoted part sent by airmail to Tokyo.

  1. Vol. iii, p. 383.
  2. Not printed; it reported a Japanese consular “promise that steps would be taken promptly to remove any cause of complaint” by Americans who might experience inconvenience from Japanese military restrictions (893.102 Tientsin/225).
  3. Vol. iii, p. 386.