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Historical documents

131 Eggleston to Evatt


I received your Telegram No. SC.6 [1] but I am afraid there has
been some misunderstanding which must have occurred through the
inadequacy of our telegrams in explaining the matter to you. In
the circumstances, I considered it proper to send you my Telegram
No. S.32 of the 28th February. [2] It is clearly the duty of a
diplomat, if he believes that an instruction is given on a
misunderstanding of the facts, to clear up this misunderstanding
before proceeding.

I do not know whether the file you are using contains the Note
attached to the Chinese Draft Treaty (see my Telegram No. S.16
[3]). If you look at it you will see that the Chinese ask His
Majesty the King for the Commonwealth of Australia to renounce all
rights and privileges relinquished by His Majesty the King for the
United Kingdom and Ireland in the British Exchange of Notes. This
clearly indicated that the Chinese wanted not only a renunciation
of Consular jurisdiction and territorial concessions but all other
privileges included in the 'Unequal Treaties'.

In my opinion, the drafting of this in a general form by reference
to the British Note was objectionable and I therefore drew up a
draft which I sent you in my Telegram No. S. 26. [4] This was
merely an extension of the Chinese drafting. Your Telegram No.

SC.4 [5] contained no instructions on this. You ask why we should
sign any Note seeing that these things do not concern us, but the
answer is that they are considered by the Chinese as matters of
extraterritoriality and the treaties which secured them, all the
'Unequal Treaties'. They ate privileges exacted by treaty by the
foreign Powers which the Chinese wish surrendered. We are, as Dr.

T. V. Soong [6] specifically said, (see my Despatch No. 63 of the
20th January [7]) considered heirs of these treaties as successor
members of the British Commonwealth. They consider that when we
promised the removal of extraterritoriality, we promised to
renounce these treaties. Failure to do so when asked will look as
if we wanted to retain the privileges. At any rate, it will be
regarded as a definitely unfriendly act. It seems to me so
pointless to incur this feeling as the privileges are of no value
to us.

You appear to have been misled by the attachment of certain
provisos and conditions to some of the renunciations. These were
in the British Note and I copied them in the Draft because they
were in our favour. I dare say this was confusing but as you have
placed on me the difficult task of drafting in this remote spot
where I cannot receive instructions in detail, I have adopted the
practice of including all points in our favour, leaving you to
strike them out if you so desire. If you look at my Telegram No.

S.26 you will find I invited you to do this.

The various stipulations made by the British can all be omitted
and the Note would then consist of a simple series of
renunciations, that is:

(1) Treaty rights relating to Treaty Ports.

(2) Special Courts in Shanghai and Amoy.

(3) Foreign Pilots.

(4) Entry of naval vessels.

(5) Right to appoint Inspector-General of Customs.

(6) Special rights of British shipping.

The need for Clause (f) depends on whether there are any
Australians with cases pending which I have no means of deciding.

It is probably unimportant but would be important if there were
any cases pending. Clause (h) is the sort of clause which the
Chinese like and I cannot see that it could possibly do any harm.

What I am afraid of is that the Chinese will not be able to
understand our unwillingness to renounce these privileges and will
attribute it to a sinister intention. The fact that they are
useless to us will increase their amazement. The Chinese are a
dreadfully suspicious people.

On the omission of Articles V, VI and VII we have a good case.

When I see the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs [8], I shall put
our refusal of these Articles on the ground that you refuse to go
beyond extraterritoriality and that all questions of reciprocity
are matters for detailed negotiation when the whole situation has
been fully reviewed. I think we shall get away with this,
especially as I notice that the Chinese have not put in a counter-
draft to the Canadian Treaty which indicates, I consider, that
they are waiting until they see how they get on with us.

I presume you noticed that the amended Article V is much less
objectionable (see my Telegram No. S.28 [9]). The situation, I
take it, is that the Chinese will give to Australians in China
rights to travel, reside and carry on business similar to those
given by Australians to Chinese in Australia. In other words, if
we have restricted Chinese, they can restrict Australians in
similar ways. The wording would probably have to be altered to
make this clear.

There is no doubt that failure to sign the amended Article V in a
form in which it was signed by Britain and America will cause some
misunderstanding and suspicion, and possibly resentment. It may do
more than this-it may give the impression that we are afraid of
the issue.

My view is that we cannot afford to show this fear. We have one
vital issue-the question of immigration-on which we must be firm
and reasonable. This may cause a good deal of ill-feeling which we
must face and handle when it arises. I am prepared to stand up to
this and have no doubt that with firmness, intelligence and
patience, it can be negotiated safely, especially as there are
others in the same position as ourselves.

What I am trying to avoid is the complication of the situation by
suspicion and misunderstanding on points of no importance. We are
at present on good terms with the Chinese because there is a
recognition of common interests in the Pacific but Chinese opinion
is completely unreliable and could be switched against us by a
week's propaganda in the newspapers. When the movement is once
started, the damage may take years to rectify. My main objective
is to avoid giving any unnecessary pretext for this to occur.


1 Document 125.

2 On file AA:A989, 43/735/313. It suggested that the instructions
contained in the second paragraph of Document 125 were based on a
misconception of the situation and stressed the importance of the
Commonwealth Govt renouncing all extraterritorial rights.

3 Received 31 January. On file AA:A989, 43/305/2, v.

4 Received 14 February. On the file cited in note 3.

5 Document 116.

6 Chinese Foreign Minister.

7 On the file cited in note 3.

8 Dr K. C. Wu.

9 Received 16 February. On the file cited in note 3.

[AA:A989, 43-44/305/2, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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