The bones of China's most valuable spy on Taiwan return home after 60 years
Last December, the most famous Communist spy in Taiwan returned home to China after 60 years.
Chenzhi was so successful at espionage that she served as the conduit
to transmit the island's defense strategy from Taaiwan's Vice Minister
of Defense to the People's Liberation Army as it prepared for a possible
invasion. She got shot by a firing squad for her action.
remains returned in an urn carried by the chairman of a Taiwan burial
company on a plane from Taipei to Beijing, where he presented it to
Zhu's grand-daughter. Zhu was executed by firing squad in June 1950 --
but her story remained a secret for 60 years.
"Such a thing would
have been impossible 10 years ago," said Chu Hong-yuan, a professor at
Academica Sinica in Taiwan who played a major role in finding the urn.
used to regard the other side as enemies but we do not now. The return
of the urn was made possible by the hard work of many Taiwan people who
did it from the goodness of their heart, not for money. The Communist
Party sees Zhu as a revolutionary martyr. We do not object to this."
return of China's Mata Hari is a symbol of growing friendship between
Taiwan and China. It took seven years of painstaking work by people in
Taiwan to track down the urn and the return had the tacit approval of
the government. It is a sign of tolerance and reconciliation, to regard
someone who was trying to bring Communism to Taiwan as a person and not a
Zhu was executed by firing squad on June 10, 1950 in
Taipei, together with Vice Defense Minister Wu Shi, the man who provided
her with Taiwan's defense plans. Two weeks later, the Korean War broke
out, persuading the US to switch policy and include Taiwan in its Asian
defense perimeter. The invasion which Zhu had helped to prepare never
Beijing regards Zhu as a revolutionary martyr and will
intern her at the national cemetery at Babaoshan in Beijing in April. In
October 2005, events were held to mark her 100th anniversary in her
native place in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. It was attended by senior
members of the PLA, the police and China's intelligence community.
urn sat unnoticed in a Taipei cemetery for more than 50 years until her
family in the mainland launched a search for it. A Taiwan author led
the hunt, which took seven years.
Chu said that the Taipei city government and department of civil affairs had assisted with the search out of humanitarianism.
hope the remains of the many KMT people who sacrificed themselves in
the mainland can be returned. We hope that the Chinese government can
support this effort."
One of the people instrumental in finding
the urn was Lei Yuan-rong, who has worked in the Taipei Number Two
Funeral Home for 20 years. "We have more than 300 unmarked urns, of
Communist spies and those killed after the February 28, 1947 rebellion.
Their families could not or did not dare to claim them. It was too
sensitive. Many people now are too old to do this.
Zhu was a famous person, a high cadre in the party. The mainland
government has paid much attention to this affair," he said. "It was my
duty and that of the other parlor workers to help Zhu's family find the
urn, despite the difficulties."
Zhu was born in 1905, the fourth
daughter of a rich family in Zhenhai township in Ningbo, where her
father was president of a fishing company. She attended the Ladies
Normal School in Ningbo, whose principal was an underground member of
the Communist Party and whose classmates were sympathetic to the cause.
In 1925, she took part in anti-foreign protests in Shanghai.
1927, she married the chief engineer of the main armaments factory of
Zhang Zuolin, the warlord who controlled Northeast China, and had one
daughter, Zhu Xiaofeng. After the Japanese takeover of the region in
1931, her husband moved to Nanjing to work for the arms industry of the
Nationalist government; but he died suddenly of cholera in 1932.
1937, after she married a member of the Communist Party, the couple
moved to Wuhan. For the next three years, they worked for the party in
the fields of culture and finance. She traveled to Hong Kong, Zhejiang
and Guilin, collecting intelligence and managing money. In 1940, to
raise money for the party, she sold a three-carat diamond ring given to
her by her mother, for 3,000 yuan.
In 1941, the KMT arrested her
husband and imprisoned him in a camp in Shangrao, Jiangxi province.
Through her good connections in the KMT, Zhu visited him three times to
provide him with money and medicine. She also gave gifts to the camp
commandant. Her husband later escaped in a mass break-out by 58 of the
In 1944, she was arrested and interrogated by the
Japanese military police in Shanghai. In 1945, she officially joined the
party and worked undercover in the commercial and information sectors
After working in Shanghai for three years, she was
sent to Hong Kong in 1948 to work in a trading company run by the
party's underground. She visited Taiwan on a business trip and found its
people speaking Taiwanese and Japanese but no Mandarin and women on the
streets wearing kimonos.
In 1949, she was given her most
important assignment – to collect military information from Wu Shi,
deputy defence minister. A long-time sympathizer of the Communist Party,
Wu had since 1947 provided it with military intelligence which had
helped it defeat the KMT in the mainland.
On November 25, 1949,
Zhu took a boat from Victoria harbor to the north Taiwan port of
Keelung, hiding gold necklaces and ornaments in her clothes. She took an
assumed name and stayed in the house of her stepdaughter, who worked,
ironically, for the KMT's secret service.
From early December,
Zhu went to Wu's house each Saturday, under the guise of someone from a
pharmaceutical shop, to collect the information; the next day she
delivered it to Cai Jiao-gan, head of the Communist Party in Taiwan and
the only Taiwanese to have taken part in the Long March.
information Wu provided was first-grade military intelligence – Taiwan's
defense strategy, the quantity and location of its air force, the kinds
of planes, the details of arms, artillery, tank and infantry units and
names of senior officers. It was just the information the PLA needed to
plan the invasion.
Wu was driven not by money or material benefit
but idealism; like many Chinese, including those in the Kuomintang, he
was inspired by the dream of a strong, independent and uncorrupt China.
made seven collections, the last on January 14, 1950, and safely passed
the information to her superiors. Her mission complete, they ordered
her to return to Hong Kong; she sent a message to her family in Shanghai
telling them of her imminent arrival. A friend bought her a ticket on a
boat to Hong Kong.
Then in January, police arrested Cai, who
supplied the entire list of Communist agents in Taiwan. Aware of his
imminent arrest, Wu organized a military plane to fly Zhu to the
Zhoushan islands off Zhejiang, still in KMT hands, and not far from her
home town. She was arrested there on February 18 and flown back to
During her interrogation, she was asked to co-operate but
refused and stuck to her principles. She was, like many associates of
the Chiang family, a member of a wealthy Ningbo family. The official
report on her case said she tried to commit suicide by swallowing gold
concealed in her clothes and that, entrusted with an important mission,
she had shown bravery and resolution and willingness to sacrifice her
On the afternoon of June 10, after conviction by a military
tribunal, she and three high-ranking KMT military officers, including
Wu Shi, were taken to the Machangting execution ground in Taipei. Six
soldiers raised their rifles. "Long live the Communist Party," she
shouted and the six opened fire; she was just 45. Among the three others
executed was her informant Wu Shi.
Her family did not learn of
the death for a month, according to her daughter Zhu Xiaofeng, 80, a
doctor who spent her professional life at a military hospital in Nanjing
and lives in retirement there. In July 1951, she received a document
from the Shanghai government saying that her mother was a 'glorious
revolutionary martyr' but was told that there could be no public
mourning of her until Taiwan was 'liberated', a decision she completely
During the Cultural Revolution, Zhu Xiaofeng was
falsely charged – people said that her mother had been seen in Taiwan
and had changed sides. Finally, in 1983, she went to Beijing to receive a
document from the party Central Committee saying that her mother was an
Zhu spoke rarely about her mother,
even among the family. They did not know if anything remained of her.
Zhu Chenzhi's second husband died in 2000.
Then, in 2000, at the
Taipei museum of the February 1947 uprising, a Taiwan author, Hsu
Chung-mao, organized an exhibition of people who had been executed at
Mayangting in 1950; for the first time, the public saw photographs of
Zhu Chenzhi and Wu Shi.
In 2002, Hsu provided the pictures to two
mainland magazines, which informed people in China about Zhu for the
first time. The next year Zhu Xiaofeng asked Hsu to try to track down
her mother's remains.
Hsu discovered that, due to the pressure
from associations representing the families of those executed under
martial law, the Taipei government had set aside 612 spaces in one of
the city's funeral homes.
Hsu searched for two years for the urn
but got nowhere. The case was pending for five years until the start of
2010, when a Shanghai scholar provided an important clue. Then, with the
help of Professor Chu Hong-yuan and staff at the funeral home, they
were able to locate the urn and inform Zhu's family in China.
December 9, Liu Tiancai, chairman of the Sino-Life Group Ltd, carried
the urn himself on a plane from Taipei to Beijing and presented it to
Zhu's grand-daughter and her husband. The two took it to the Babaoshan
In October 2005, Zhu's home district of Zhenhai held
memorial activities to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth and built
a museum in her honour. The events were attended by family members,
senior local officials, a representative from the Ministry of Public
Security, the former deputy ministry of the communications division of
the Chief of the General Staff and the son of the party's top spymaster
during Zhu's life. Speakers praised her for an outstanding contribution
toward 'the liberation of Taiwan and the unification of the country.'
said that he and the others who had helped in the search for the urn
had been motivated by a spirit of reconciliation and tolerance and a
wish to change the political culture from removing heads to counting
"It will probably take many years before history can make
the final judgment," he said. "Or there could be no final judgment at
all. As with the American civil war, a heated debate as to who were the
'good guys' and the 'bad guys' has continued to haunt the descendants of
the soldiers and officers who gave their lives."