Secret Rules The Politics and Strategy of Russian Extraterritoriality in China

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Stella D’Acquisto


Why would someone living in China claim Russian citizenship when accused of a crime? In 1906, Alec Alexander did just that, seeking to be tried in a Russian court rather than a Chinese one.1 Facing charges of prostitution with evidence mounting against him, he claimed Russian citizenship despite not being a Russian citizen at all. This was because in this time, a Russian living in China could be tried in a Russian court because of a special legal status called extraterritoriality. Countries such as the United States, Great Britain, and Russia held this status, which allowed their nationals residing in China to sue or be tried in the courts of their home countries rather than in Chinese courts. Typically, foreign residents in China would appear before “Mixed Courts” or local Chinese courts, but this exception created foreign courts based in China that could try their own citizens.

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