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

No. 1066

Subject: Occupation of American Mission Property by Chinese Troops.

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that following the end of the war in China the Embassy received an increasing number of complaints from American mission organizations that their property had been occupied by Chinese troops who refused to return the property to its owners. There is enclosed a list of notes written by the Embassy to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting, on behalf of American mission organizations, that Chinese troops be ordered to evacuate occupied property. Although the Ministry was very cooperative in complying with the Embassy’s requests, the number of complaints continued to increase. Therefore, on December 27, 1945, the Embassy wrote to the Ministry (Note No. 85, a copy of which is enclosed) requesting that additional and more comprehensive action be taken to prevent the occupation of American mission property by Chinese troops, since once a property had been occupied, the American owner inevitably encountered considerable delay and sometimes property damage before the troops surrendered the premises. It was suggested that general instructions to Chinese Army commanders and the issuance of proclamations identifying American property would be helpful. The Ministry replied in its note of January 15 (copy enclosed) stating that the appropriate authorities have circulated instructions to the troops concerned to vacate mission properties occupied by them but that they are unable to comply with the Embassy’s suggestion that proclamations be issued in the absence of information on the numbers and locations of mission properties in China.

[Page 1367]

Since it would obviously be a formidable task to list all American mission property in China, the Embassy has suggested to the Consulate General in Shanghai the following alternative procedure. The Consulate General has been asked to inform mission organizations, most of which have their headquarters in Shanghai, that if they desire proclamations to be posted on their property in order to protect it from occupation by Chinese troops, they should supply the Consulate General with the name and address, in English and Chinese, of the property in question. The Consulate General will then forward the request to the Embassy which will transmit it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ask that the appropriate local authorities be instructed to issue the proclamations. Although this is a somewhat cumbersome procedure, it is believed that it offers a satisfactory solution to the problem.

In most cases the Embassy has not been informed by the missions of the results of its representations, but it is believed that they have generally been effective since in only one or two instances has a mission appealed to the Embassy a second time. The Consulate General in Shanghai informed the Embassy on January 10 that the University of Shanghai premises had been evacuated.

Another problem arising from the occupation of mission property by Chinese Troops is the removal or destruction of furniture and equipment by these troops. In one case reported in detail to the Embassy, the Bethesda Hospital at Siangyang, Hupeh, claims to have lost property valued at approximately $2,000 United States currency. This loss occurred in May and June of this year during the occupation of the hospital by the Chinese Army. The Embassy would appreciate being informed whether this claim and similar claims submitted by American missionary organizations, should be presented to the Chinese Government. Some property damage committed by Chinese troops occurred during the war period but much of it apparently has taken place since the end of the war, during the re-occupation of liberated territories.

Respectfully yours,

For the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim
Robert L. Smyth
[Page 1368]
[Enclosure 1]

Notes to Foreign Office Requesting Evacuation of Chinese Troops From American Mission Property October, 1945–January, 1946

Note Name of Institution Location of Occupied Property
1. Unnumbered Oct. 8, 1945 Bethesda Hospital Siansrvansr. HuDeh
2. No. 21, October 30, 1945 Christian and Missionary Alliance Changteh, Hupeh
3. No. 25, November 2, 1945 Evangelical Lutheran Church Ichang, Hupeh
4. No. 63, December 17, 1945 Reformed Church Mission Yuanling, Hunan
5. No. 64, December 17, 1945 American Church Mission Ichang, Hupeh
6. No. 81, December 27, 1945 American Baptist Board of Missions, (University of Shanghai) Shanghai China Bible Seminary Shanghai
7. No. 82, December 27, 1945 West China Conference of the Methodist Church Nanchang, Kiangsi
8. No. 15, January 5, 1945 [1946] Reformed Church Mission, Yoyang, Hunan
Margaret Williamson Hospital, Shanghai
National Christian Council,
American Church Mission,
Foreign Mission Board of Southern Baptist Convention
(Numerous properties in various parts of China. See lists enclosed in Shanghai’s despatch No. 8, dated Dec. 28, 1945.1)
[Enclosure 2]

The American Chargé (Robertson) to the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs (Wang)

No. 85

Excellency: I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that since the end of hostilities with Japan the Embassy has received an increasing number of reports from American missionary organizations that their property in the recently liberated parts of China has been occupied by Chinese troops. Bishop Ralph A. Ward of the Methodist Mission recently made a month’s trip in the Yangtze Valley inspecting mission stations at Kiukiang, Anking, Wuhu, Nanking, Chinkiang, [Page 1369] and other places and found many mission buildings occupied by Chinese troops. Mr. W. P. Mills, Secretary of the National Christian Council of China writes that much of the Protestant mission property in the liberated areas is now occupied by Chinese Government troops or by Government agencies of one sort of [or] another. This situation has made the recovery by American mission organizations of their property in China extremely difficult, and in many cases they have had to appeal to the Embassy for help. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is already aware of numerous specific cases of this type which have been brought to is attention in the following third person notes from this Embassy:

Unnumbered October 8, 1945
21 October 30, 1945
25 November 2, 1945
63 December 17, 1945
64 December 17, 1945
81 December 27, 1945
82 December 27, 1945

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has always been extremely cooperative in taking the necessary action to bring about the evacuation of Chinese troops from American mission properties. However, in view of the increasing frequency of these incidents it is felt that additional and more comprehensive action by the Chinese Government is necessary to prevent them from recurring. To take action only after a property has been occupied results in great inconvenience to the mission representatives who suffer long delays in repossessing and rehabilitating their property in order to carry on their work in China.

Although the specific measures to be taken can only be properly determined by the Chinese Government, it is suggested that general instructions to Army commanders ordering them to evacuate any American property which they may now occupy and to refrain from occupying such property in the future would be helpful. The Chinese Government may also wish to issue proclamations which may be distributed to bona fide American mission organizations for posting on their property in order to assist Chinese troops in identifying it.

Please accept [etc.]

Walter S. Robertson
[Enclosure 3]

The Chinese Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the American Embassy

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs presents its compliments to the American Embassy and has the honor to refer to the Embassy’s formal note no. 85 of December 27, 1945, stating that many American mission properties in recently liberated areas of China have been occupied by [Page 1370] Chinese troops. The Embassy requested that extensive measures be taken by the Chinese Government and that proclamations be issued for posting at these mission properties in order to make them easily recognizable to Chinese troops. The Ministry referred the request to the appropriate authorities for consideration and action, and addressed third person notes nos. Mei/35/382 and 384 on January 11, 1946 to the Embassy2 for its information.

A reply has now been received from the appropriate authorities stating that they have circulated an instruction to the troops concerned to vacate the American mission properties occupied by them, but that they are unable to issue proclamations in the absence of information regarding the numbers of American churches at various places in China. The reply suggested that the Embassy be requested to ascertain the numbers and addresses of such churches in order that action may be taken in the matter.

The Ministry has the honor to request that the Embassy investigate and inform it of the numbers and addresses of American mission properties in China, so that the appropriate authorities may be requested to consider and act in the matter.

Seal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China
  1. Not printed.
  2. Neither printed.