811.5293/5–847: Telegram

The Consul General at Shanghai ( Davis ) to the Secretary of State

1123. Consul General received reply from Land Bureau dated April 26 stating unable grant further general extension time limit for registration of foreign-owned land but agreeing to grant extension in specific cases where owner is not in Shanghai or his proof of ownership is elsewhere, provided Consulate General notifies Bureau in each individual case and gives reasons for inability to comply with time limit. Land Commissioner12 explained orally that owners who were themselves in Shanghai or who had agents in Shanghai should file applications for registration even though they might not possess documentary proof of ownership, and that documents might be submitted later (urtel 414 to Dept13).

In compliance instructions Urtel 406, May 3, 11 a.m.,14 officer Consulate General delivered letter to Land Commissioner on May 7 pointing out that Consulate General had no means of ascertaining identity of all American beneficial owners and could not therefore submit names of those unable to comply with time limit until owners themselves came forward to request Consulate General’s assistance, and in view these circumstances requesting general extension time limit for unknown American landowners without submitting names and other details. Consulate General’s officer discussed question at some length with Commissioner who assured us there was no intention of confiscating American-owned land but said administrative difficulties arose unless some time limit were fixed. He explained that unless all landowners applied for registration, and unclaimed land dealt with according to law, it was difficult to determine accurately boundaries and areas of properties whose owners had already registered, and issuance new deeds to those who had applied would thus be delayed. Consulate General’s officer pointed out, however, that order from central authorities requiring time limit did not specify date, thus apparently leaving it to discretion of local authorities and suggested Commissioner might reconsider and fix later deadline.

Commissioner agreed to reconsider granting blanket extension for unknown landowners as requested by Consulate General and further agreed for time being to accept Consul General’s usual certificates of ownership plus special covering letter explaining reasons for delay in registering.

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Commissioner will reply in writing to our request after reconsideration and Embassy and Dept will be informed. Commissioner’s attitude was sympathetic and cooperative. Consulate General regards time limits fixed in other localities [in] its district as more dangerous to rights American Nationals (see second paragraph mytel 757, April 29, 7 p.m.15) because there is no assurance either Consul General or American landowners will receive due notice of deadlines and American rights might go by default. It is possible deadlines will not be strictly enforced anywhere but considerable difficulty might arise in cases where American-owned land is listed as ownerless, technically reverting to Government. Embassy may wish to point this out to Foreign Office.

Sent Nanking 800; repeated Department 1123.

  1. Chu P’ing.
  2. See last paragraph of telegram printed supra.
  3. See last paragraph of telegram No. 952, p. 1389.
  4. Telegram No. 757 was sent to the Ambassador in China and was not repeated to the Department. It reported that time limits had been set elsewhere in the Consulate General’s district, such as Hangchow and Ningpo, and expressed concern that time limit notices might not reach the Consulate General from all places in its district and “that many American land owners especially Missions own property in outlying areas where they have at present no representatives, and are not in position either to learn of time limits or take action to comply therewith.” (852—Land Registration, Lot F84)