1876, Zhifu Agreement - Britain

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Agreement Between the Ministers Plenipotentiary of the
Governments of Great Britain and China.*

(Signed, in the English and Chinese Languages, at Chefoo [Zhifu], 13th September 1876.

Ratified by the Emperor of China, 17th September 1876.)

            Agreement negotiated between Sir Thomas Wade, K.C.B., Her Britannic Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of China, and Li, Minister Plenipotentiary of His Majesty the Emperor of China, Senior Grand Secretary, Governor-General of the Province of Chihli, of the First Class of the Third Order of Nobility.

            The negotiation between the Ministers above named has its origin in a despatch received by Sir Thomas Wade in the spring of the present year from the Earl of Derby, Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, dated 1st January 1876. This contained instructions regarding the disposal of three questions; first, a satisfactory settlement of the Yünnan affair; secondly, a faithful fulfilment of engagements of last year respecting intercourse between the high officers of the two Governments; thirdly, the adoption of a uniform system in satisfaction of the understanding arrived at in the month of September 1875 (8th moon of the 1st year of the reign of Kwang Sü) on the subject of ratification of conditions of trade. It is to this despatch that Sir Thomas Wade has referred himself in discussions on these questions with the Tsungli Yamen, farther reference to which is here omitted as superfluous. The conditions now agreed to between Sir Thomas Wade and the Grand Secretary Li are as follows.

Section I. — Settlement of the Yünnan Case.

            (i) A Memorial is to be presented to the Throne, whether by the Tsungli Yamen or by the Grand Secretary Li is immaterial, in the sense of the Memorandum prepared by Sir Thomas Wade. Before presentation the Chinese text of the Memorial is to be shown to Sir Thomas Wade.

            (ii) The Memorial having been presented to the Throne, and the Imperial Decree in reply received, the Tsungli Yamen will communicate copies of the Memorial and Imperial Decree to Sir Thomas Wade, together with a copy of a letter from the Tsungli Yamen to the Provincial Governments, instructing them to issue a proclamation that shall embody at length the above Memorial and Decree. Sir Thomas Wade will thereupon reply to the effect that for two years to come officers will be sent by the British Minister to different places in the provinces to see that the proclamation is posted. On application from the British Minister, or the Consul of any port instructed by him to make application, the high officers of the provinces will depute competent officers to accompany those so sent to the places which they go to observe.

            (iii) In order to the framing of such regulations as will be needed for the conduct of the frontier trade between Burma and Yün Nan, the Memorial submitting the proposed settlement of the Yün Nan Affair will contain a request that an Imperial Decree be issued directing the Governor General and Governor, whenever the British Government shall send officers to Yün Nan, to select a competent officer of rank to confer with them and to conclude a satisfactory arrangement.

            (iv) The British government will be free for five years, from the 1st of January next, being the 17th day of the 11th moon of the 2nd year of the reign of Kwang Sü, to station officers at Ta-li Fu, or at some other suitable place in Yün Nan, to observe the conditions of trade; to the end that they may have information upon which to base the regulations of trade when these have to be discussed. For the consideration and adjustment of any matter affecting British Officers or Subjects, these Officers will be free to address themselves to the Authorities of the province. The opening of the trade may be proposed by the British Government, as it may find best, at any time within the term of five years, or upon expiry of the term of five years.

            Passports having been obtained last year for a Mission from India into Yün Nan, it is open to the Viceroy of India to send such Mission at any time he may see fit.

            (v) The amount of indemnity to be paid on account of the families of the officers and others killed in Yün Nan; on account of the expenses which the Yün Nan case has occasioned; and on account of claims of British Merchants arising out of the action of officers of the Chinese Government, up to the commencement of the present year, Sir Thomas Wade takes upon himself to fix at Two hundred thousand Taels payable on demand.

            (vi) When the case is closed an Imperial Letter will be written expressing regret for what has occurred in Yün Nan. The Mission bearing the Imperial Letter will proceed to England immediately. Sir Thomas Wade is to be informed of the constitution of this Mission for the information of his Government. The text of the Imperial Letter is also to be communicated to Sir Thomas Wade by the Tsung Li Yamen.

Section II. — Official Intercourse.

            Under this heading are included the conditions of intercourse between high officers in the capital and the provinces, and between Consular Officers and Chinese Officials at the ports; also the conduct of judicial proceedings in mixed cases.

            (i) In the Tsung-li Yamen’s Memorial of the 28th September 1875,* the Prince of Kung and the Ministers stated that their object in presenting it had not been simply the transaction of business, in which Chinese and foreigners might be concerned; Missions abroad and the question of diplomatic intercourse lay equally within their prayer.

            To the prevention of farther misunderstanding upon the subject of intercourse and correspondence, the present conditions of both having caused complaint in the capital and in the provinces, it is agreed that the Tsung Li Yamen shall address a Circular to the Legations inviting Foreign Representatives to consider with them a code of etiquette; to the end that Foreign officials in China, whether at the ports or elsewhere, may be treated with the same regard as is shown them when serving abroad in other countries, and as would be shown to Chinese Agents so serving abroad.

            The fact that China is about to establish Missions and Consulates abroad renders an understanding on these points essential.

            (ii) The British Treaty of 1858, Article XVI, lays down that “Chinese Subjects who may be guilty of any criminal act towards British Subjects shall be arrested and punished by Chinese Authorities according to the laws of China.

            “British Subjects, who may commit any crime in China, shall be tried and punished by the consul, or any other public functionary authorized thereto, according to the laws of Great Britain.

            “Justice shall be equitably and impartially administered on both sides.”

            The words “functionary authorized thereto” are translated in the Chinese text “British Government.”

            In order to the fulfilment of its Treaty obligations, the British government has established a Supreme Court at shanghai, with a special code of rules, which it is now about to revise. The Chinese Government has established at Shanghai a Mixed Court, but the Officer presiding over it, either from lack of power, or dread of unpopularity, constantly fails to enforce his judgments.

            It is now understood that the Tsung Li Yamen will write a Circular to the Legations, inviting Foreign Representatives at once to consider with the Tsung Li Yamen the measures needed for the more effective administration of justice at the Ports open to trade.

            (iii) It is agreed that whenever a crime is committed affecting the person or property of a British Subject, whether in the interior or at the open ports, the British Minister shall be free to send officers to the spot to be present at the investigation.

            To the prevention of misunderstanding on this point, Sir Thomas Wade will write a Note to the above effect, to which the Tsung Li Yamen will reply, affirming that this is the course of proceeding to be adhered to for the time to come.

            It is farther understood that so long as the laws of the two countries differ from each other there can be but one principle to guide judicial proceedings in mixed cases in China, namely, that the case is tried by the official of the defendant’s nationality; the official of the plaintiff’s nationality merely attending to watch the proceedings in the interests of justice. If the officer so attending be dissatisfied with the proceedings, it will be in his power to protest against them in detail. The law administered will be the law of the nationality of the officer trying the case. This is the meaning of the words hui t’ung, indicating combined action in judicial proceedings in Article XVI of the Treaty of Tientsin, and this is the course to be respectively followed by the officers of either nationality.

Section III. — Trade.

            (i) With reference to the area within which, according to the Treaties in force, likin ought not to be collected on foreign goods at the open ports, Sir Thomas Wade agrees to move his Government to allow the ground rented by foreigners (the so called concessions) at the different ports to be regarded as the area of exemption from likin; and the Government of China will thereupon allow I-chang in the Province of Hu-Pei, Wu-hu in An-Hui, Wen-chow in Che Kiang and Pei-hai (Pak-hoi) in Kuang Tung, to be added to the number of ports open to trade, and to become Consular stations. The British government will farther be free to send officers to reside at Chung-king, to watch the conditions of British trade in Ssu Chuen. British merchants will not be allowed to reside at Chung-king, or to open establishments or warehouses there, so long as no steamers have access to the port. When steamers have succeeded in ascending the river so far, further arrangements can be taken into consideration.

            It is farther proposed, as a measure of compromise, that at certain points on the shores of the Great River, namely, Ta-t’ung and Nganching in the Province of An-hui; Hu-k’ou in Kiang-Si; Wu-süeh, Lu-chi-k’ou, and Sha-shih in Hu Kuang; these being all places of trade in the interior, at which, as they are not open ports, foreign merchants are not legally authorized to land or ship goods, steamers shall be allowed to touch for the purpose of landing or shipping passengers or goods; but in all instances by means of native boats only: and subject to the regulations in force affecting native trade.

            Produce accompanied by a half-duty certificate may be shipped at such points by the steamers, but may not be landed by them for sale.

            And at all such points, except in the case of imports accompanied by a transit duty certificate, or exports similarly certificated, which will be severally passed free of likin, on exhibition of such certificates, likin will be duly collected on all goods whatever by the native authorities.

            Foreign Merchants will not be authorised to reside or open houses of business or warehouses at the places enumerated as ports of call.

            (ii) At all ports, opened to trade, whether by earlier or later agreement, at which no settlement area has been previously defined, it will be the duty of the British consul, acting in concert with his colleagues, the Consuls of other Powers, to come to an understanding with the local authorities regarding the definition of the foreign settlement area.

            (iii) On opium Sir Thomas Wade will move his Government to sanction an arrangement different from that affecting other imports. British merchants, when opium is brought into port, will be obliged to have it taken cognisance of by the Customs, and deposited in bond, either in a warehouse or a receiving hulk, until such time as there is a sale for it. The importer will then pay the tariff duty upon it, and the purchasers the likin, in order to the prevention of the evasion of the duty. The amount of likin to be collected will be decided by the different Provincial governments according to the circumstances of each.

            (iv) The Chinese Government agrees that Transit Duty Certificates shall be framed under one rule at all Ports, no difference being made in the conditions set forth therein; and that so far as Imports are concerned the nationality of the person possessing and carrying these is immaterial. Native produce carried from an Inland Centre to a port of shipment, if bona fide intended for shipment to a foreign port, may be by Treaty certificated by the British Subject interested, and exempted by payment of the half-duty from all charges demanded upon it en route. If produce be not the property of a British Subject, or is being carried to a port not for exportation, it is not entitled to the exemption that would be secured it by the exhibition of a Transit Duty Certificate.

            The British minister is prepared to agree with the Tsungli Yamen upon rules that will secure the Chinese Government against abuse of the privilege as affecting produce.

            The words nei ti, inland, in the clause of Article VII of the Rules appended to the Tariff, regarding carriage of imports inland, and of native produce purchased inland, apply as much to places on the sea coasts and river shores, as to places in the interior not open to foreign trade; the Chinese Government having the right to make arrangements for the prevention of abuses thereat.

            (v) Article XLV of the Treaty of 1858 prescribes no limit to the term within which a drawback may be claimed upon duty-paid imports. The British Minister agrees to a term of three years, after expiry of which no drawback shall be claimed.

            (vi) The foregoing stipulation, that certain ports are to be opened to foreign trade, and that landing and shipping of goods at six places on the Great river is to be sanctioned, shall be given effect to within six months after receipt of the Imperial Decree approving the Memorial of Grand Secretary Li.

            The date for giving effect to the stipulations affecting exemption of imports from likin taxation within the foreign settlements, and the collection of likin upon opium by the customs Inspectorate at the same time as the tariff duty upon it, will be fixed as soon as the British Government has arrived at an understanding on the subject with other foreign Governments.

            (vii) The Government of Hongkong having long complained of the interference of the Canton Customs Revenue Cruisers with the junk trade of that Colony, the Chinese Government agrees to the appointment of a Commission, to consist of a British Consul, an officer of the Hongkong Government, and a Chinese official of equal rank, in order to the establishment of some system that shall enable the Chinese Government to protect its revenue without prejudice to the interests of the colony.


            Her Majesty’s Government having it in contemplation to send a mission of exploration next year by way of Peking through Kan Su and Koko Nor, or by way of Ssu Chuan, to Thibet, and thence to India, the Tsungli Yamen, having due regard to the circumstances, will, when the time arrives, issue the necessary passports, and will address letters to the high provincial authorities and to the Resident in Thibet. If the Mission should not be sent by these routes, but should be proceeding across the Indian frontier to Thibet, the Tsungli Yamen, on receipt of a communication to the above effect from the British Minister, will write to the Chinese Resident in Thibet, and the Resident, with due regard to the circumstances, will send officers to take due care of the Mission, and passports for the Mission will be issued by the Tsungli Yamen that its passage be not obstructed.

            Done at Chefoo, in the Province of Shan Tung, this thirteenth day of September in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-six.

[L.S.]            (Signed)            Thomas Francis Wade.


[L.S.]            (Signed)            Chinese Plenipotentiary.