104. Telegram 543 from Geneva1

[Facsimile Page 1]

543. From Johnson.

1. Wang opened meeting with prepared statement and revision text proposed announcement. (Text revisions in separate tel). He said his agreement to revised text based on understanding two points: [Typeset Page 129]

That announcement in no way infringed upon or raised question about Chinese sovereignty or jurisdiction over Americans in China and that US did not attempt dictate PRC what measure it should take, that being matter only his government could decide within framework their own juridical procedures.
That nationals either side may report to entrusted third country and also their own government in order latter may refer complaints to third country in case their departure being prevented.

2. Wang requested these two points be included in record of meeting as conditions governing his agreement to revised proposal which he stated followed form and content our proposal.

3. I replied I was interested in practical situation Americans his country. Asked what was effect Wang’s revised paragraph one with respect all Americans now prevented from returning US for whatever reason.

4. Wang stated Chinese Government never put restrictions on American nationals. Those desiring return free do so but those who violated law quite another problem. These latter Americans may also leave country upon settlement their cases, as guaranteed by proposed agreement. Item one of agenda now settled by provisions this first paragraph because Americans who desired return could [Facsimile Page 2] do so. US Government in past restricted departure Chinese students but these orders rescinded so no need include in first paragraph.

5. I replied not at all clear to me how statement his proposed text affects American nationals now prevented from returning.

6. Wang repeated these are two different matters, and not possible make concrete stipulation in announcement regarding either Chinese students or American nationals. If agreement reached on announcement then these specific matters could be settled in light of agreement. Added it was his opinion sentence regarding Americans whose cases unsettled could have been included in announcement but because I objected they willing leave out sentence provided understanding reached regarding [Facsimile Page 3] sovereignty and jurisdiction over such aliens. As to specific cases return certain Americans, he promised inform us results after agreement on announcement and even this morning. He repeated that reference to nationals being prevented from returning applied only to American Government restrictions on students as Chinese never issued orders preventing departure Americans.

7. Wang continued that we had referred to Chou En-Lai’s statement number of Americans small and problem easily solved. He said Chou’s meaning is clear that if agreement reached on method specified in announcement then specific cases could be solved using this method. Emphasized infringement on sovereign and internal affairs Chinese state clearly could not be tolerated.

[Typeset Page 130]

8. I replied I could not understand meaning his reference to infringing sovereignty his government. Wang had asked me take measures permit all Chinese in US leave if they desired. Measures we took permit them leave were completely within our law. We did this in response request his government and we did not consider it infringement our sovereignty. In same way we asked him take measures permit Americans China return and we hoped and expected he would do this during talks as we had done, unilaterally and without conditions. However, Chinese had not acted and I could not agree that question announcement and question Americans in China were two different matters.

9. I continued that Wang at last meeting had raised question of sovereignty and jurisdiction over Americans in China. Suggested might help insert following clause in paragraph one draft announcement: “As the result official action in accord with government processes”. I suggested this because it reaffirmed that everything we were doing was in accord our laws and government processes.

10. Wang ignored this suggestion and returned his original argument, saying two problems before us were: (A) whether nationals could return freely to their countries, and (B) whether governments doing whatever possible help their return. Ambassadorial talks concerned primarily bring about return nationals desiring to do so and proposed announcement solved this question. He said Chinese tried meet US halfway and listed compromises he claimed his side had already made to meet our objections. He stated specific cases Americans cannot be included in text of agreement in present form which is most just and reasonable solution question. His government has taken steps and is prepared take further steps effect return Americans.

11. I replied perhaps his government had not issued special order preventing departure Americans but in fact they unable leave China. Our two government processes differ and US has no exit permit system. We have each taken measures against some nationals on other side. I had informed Wang exactly what we had done and against which of Chinese citizens. In contrast he told me simply that cases Americans detained China being reviewed. This left my nationals in very vague situation. I asked again whether review and action by his government on American cases would fully meet request I made that all Americans will “now” be permitted depart. I said if I understood his remarks correctly, this was not their meaning.

12. I continued by saying at our meeting a year ago Wang informed me cases Americans being reviewed but during following year only five American civilians imprisoned in China were released and 25 civilians remained in jail. Judging by this experience, his statement cases will be reviewed does not indicate civilians will return [Typeset Page 131] promptly US. I stated I have tried make it as clear as possible I was here to discuss return all US civilians but we are [Facsimile Page 4] no closer to resolution that problem than when we started three weeks ago. I hoped statement made by Chou meant situation different now from last year but apparently not. I emphasized I had been frank and hoped he would be equally frank because not in interest either party keep this matter dragging on. Simple, straightforward solution problem of civilians was permit them to return.

13. Wang returned previous line argument by saying my remarks deviated from discussion wording proposed announcement. He stated when last year he asked US rescind all restrictions Chinese nationals I had said US laws could not be changed. He said I should not now demand Chinese Government change their law governing civilians involved cases. Said 1,523 Americans left China since 1949, 38 left this year and review of remaining cases are additional indications his government’s lenient policy within framework Chinese law. He added if anyone had tried force his government release 11 American airmen they would not have been freed. They were released only to improve relations two countries. Attitude PRC toward Americans in prison is to help them leave as soon as possible. He said they had agreed to changes in text joint announcement and could not see reason for further delay. They had made their best effort and Americans could not object or consider arrangement unjust.

14. I replied again [garble] was not text of announcement but the return of the Americans. Phrase “preventing departure” seemed describe action Chinese regarding American civilians but maybe Wang knew better word. Any solution arrived at must make clear beyond doubt that question return of Americans had been resolved. I emphasized we not attempting dictate how problem should be handled nor ask changes laws or procedures and hoped, in view Chinese statement, PRC able reach solution in accordance their laws.

15. Wang replied agreement is like key and we have only to take it to open door to see results review cases Americans. He said efforts reach agreement should come from both sides but he saw no compromises being made by US.

16. I said hoped he would find it possible next meeting open [Facsimile Page 5] door wider and tell us whether results his review would be release of all Americans. I added if his reluctance do so was a matter of timing I was sure that could be worked out. The one and only request I had made was the release of all Americans and I would accept changes in wording of text to achieve this objective. I had told him exactly what we prepared to do and expected him reply equally frankly.

17. Wang completely ignored my suggestion that question of timing could be worked out. Instead he replied if we not willing take [Typeset Page 132] key, door must remain closed and could not be opened by “violence”. If Americans forced them do anything, frankly it could not be done. Repeated claims American Government made on basis of list tantamount to obliging Chinese to comply. This they could not do because it would mean repudiation procedures in framework Chinese law.

18. I asked Ambassador tell me what I had said that he interpreted as my attempting use “force”. I came here to find solution with him. If he took action regarding our nationals comparable to our action toward his, agreement was possible. He replied by stating my “repeated claims on basis list” was “obliging them to comply. This they could not do” etc, etc.

19. Meeting closed with much sparring, I repeating theme release all Americans and he repeating theme key was in our hands.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/8–1855. Confidential.