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China Still Waits the End of Extraterritoriality
WHEN Turkey abolished the capitulations soon after the war China and Egypt were left as the only two nations bound by extraterritoriality. Now that the Montreux Convention has provided for the complete abolition of the Egyptian Capitulations, China has lost her sole companion. Henceforth she will be the only nation bound by the shackles of the ancient system without any definite date of its abolition. The fact naturally intensifies the bitter feelings of the Chinese people; and once again extraterritoriality has become an important and irritating issue between China and the interested Powers.
The story of China's efforts to free herself from extraterritoriality goes back to 1900. Great Britain was the first, in 1902, to agree to relinquish her extraterritorial rights "when she is satisfied that the Chinese laws, the arrangement for their administration and other considerations warrant her in so doing." The next year Japan and the United States made similar noncommittal promises. They of course failed to satisfy China's aspirations.
China raised the extraterritoriality question at Paris in 1919. The Peace Conference was overwhelmed with the postwar problems, and President Wilson had his hands full trying to deliver the League of Nations, repeatedly threatened with a miscarriage. The cry of China was heard but ignored.
The fruitless efforts at Paris disappointed but did not discourage China. At the Washington Conference, therefore, her delegates asked the Powers to take initial steps toward "abolishing the existing system, which is admitted on all hands to be unsatisfactory both to foreigners and Chinese," and urged that a definite date be fixed for such abolition.[i] After considerable discussion the Conference passed a resolution expressing sympathy for China's aspirations and providing for a commission to investigate the practice of extraterritoriality as well as inquire into the laws and their administration in China. This commission, on China's invitation, met in January 1926, and reported in September of the same year. It recommended the release of the old rights gradually as China was able to give proper protection to foreigners and their property. Nothing seems to have been done to carry out this recommendation.