The Consul General at Shanghai (Josselyn) to the Chargé in China (Robertson)11

No. 16

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch no. 3 of November 22, 1945 forwarding Provisional Regulations Regarding the Re-registration of Land, also my despatches no. 5 of December 7 and no. 6 of December 13 on the same subject. I am transmitting herewith copies of memoranda12 which I have received on the general subject of land registration particularly as it concerns registered and beneficial ownership. These memoranda were prepared for presentation to the British Consul General by a British firm of engineers and architects, Messrs. Atkinson & Dallas, Ltd. I believe that a reading of these two memoranda, whether or not one agrees with the conclusions reached, will show the complicated nature of land tenure in Shanghai and the difficulties to be encountered in carrying out the provisions relating to land in the Sino-American Treaty of 1943. As will be noted from the memorandum of November 28, there are roughly 14,000 lots covered by British consular title deeds and 4,000 lots covered by American consular deeds. The values of the property represented by these deeds will, of course, run into a very high figure. The matter of the procedure to be followed is becoming more and more urgent, and I have received a number of inquiries from American owners with regard to the steps which they should take.

In conversation with my British colleague a few days ago, he informed me that he had engaged the services of a Mr. J. C. Greig, [Page 1315] who is the former Deputy Secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Council, in charge of the Settlement Land Office. Mr. Ogden stated that he had done this for the reason that there is no one on the staff of his office who is familiar with land tenure in Shanghai and that he considered the services of an expert absolutely necessary. I had a conversation with Mr. Greig at which time he informed me that the British Consulate General was preparing a communication to the Shanghai Municipal Government setting forth its position in the matter of land re-registration and that when this was completed, he would inform me.

I have now received from the British Consul General an excerpt from a communication which he has addressed to the Shanghai Municipal Government outlining a proposed procedure for the registration of land. This excerpt is quoted below:

  • “(a) Recognition in the first place of the status of all Title Deeds existing and fully registered prior to August 1937 (i. e. the date from which the late Chinese Land Bureau ceased to function) as shown by the Consulate Registers and of any, to which there was no objection on the part of the Land Bureau, which had been forwarded by this Consulate but not completely registered by the Bureau when the outbreak of war stopped proceedings.
  • “(b) That transfers noted by this Consulate in the interim (i. e. from August 1937 to December 8th 1941) be reported to your Land Bureau and accepted as issued Deeds.
  • “(c) That your Land Bureau be notified where claims are made to this Consulate with regard to Title Deeds lost, stolen or illegally transferred.
  • “(d) That, when the Title Deeds mentioned in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) have been recognized by the Chinese Government, as provided for in the Treaty, if your Land Bureau wish to issue a new form of Deed therefor the exchange of the existing Deeds for the new Deeds shall be done through this Consulate and that thereafter the responsibilities of this Consulate will cease in the matter.”

It will be noted that according to this proposed procedure the Land Bureau is to recognize (a) deeds fully and partially registered prior to August 1937 when the former Chinese Land Bureau ceased to function and (b) transfers noted at the British Consulate General between August 1937 and December 8, 1941. Also that the Land Bureau is to be notified in cases of title deeds lost, stolen or illegally transferred. This presumably means that transfers made during the period of Japanese occupation are to be declared null and void. Article d of the British proposed procedure provides that the old deeds shall be exchanged through the British Consulate General for new deeds after which the responsibilities of the British Consulate General in connection therewith shall cease.

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This latter point, i. e. the exchange of the former deeds for new deeds through the British Consulate General, is not in accordance with the Chinese view as will be noted from the enclosed copy and translation14 of a communication dated January 7 received from the Shanghai Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs quoting a letter from the Shanghai Municipal Government. It is stated in paragraph (1) that all foreign nationals leasing land and in possession of perpetual leases or consular title deeds shall apply directly to the (Land) Bureau for lease registration.

As stated in my telegram no. 44 of January 23, 11 a.m. to the Embassy (repeated to Department as no. 96 same date),14 Shanghai Land Bureau has granted an extension of the registration period from January 19 to March 18 inclusive. It is my intention to approach the Municipal Government informally with regard to the proposed procedure set forth in the memorandum from the British Consul General, and I shall inform the Embassy and the Department in regard thereto.

Respectfully yours,

Paul R. Josselyn
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department without covering despatch; received February 8. Addressed to Walter S. Robertson as technically Chargé. Mr. Robertson was actually in Peiping as American Commissioner of Executive Headquarters, set up in connection with efforts to stop fighting between Chinese Nationalist Government forces and Chinese Communists.
  2. None printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.