Burying past bitterness

Source:Global Times Published: 2011-2-14 8:24:00

Communist secret agent Zhu Feng is led on June 10, 1950 to Machangding, the execution grounds during the 1947-1987 White Terror.

By Wang Fanfan

Her mother's violent death was a mystery to Zhu Xiaofeng for over a half century.

All Zhu knew about her mother Zhu Feng was that she was a Communist secret agent dispatched to Taiwan in 1949 and executed by the Kuomintang in 1950.

Then in 2001, two photos shook her world. They appeared in the 16th issue of Old Pictures published by Shandong Pictorial Publishing House and shocked Zhu Xiaofeng to the core.

The first was of her mother in court standing alongside Wu Shi, the highest-level Communist secret agent ever uncovered by the Kuomintang and the man Mao Zedong once dubbed "secret agent No. 1."

The other was of Zhu Feng being led to her execution: Her hands, shoulders and neck were all tied with rope.

"It was exactly the same cheongsam she wore at home," Zhu Xiaofeng said.

The photos stirred up long-dormant memories and feelings, strengthening Zhu's resolve to see her mother's remains returned home.

"I don't know if my mother was buried or not," Zhu said. "She deserves to come back home."

A retired doctor at the general hospital of Nanjing Military Base, 80-year-old Zhu Xiaofeng as a child spent little time near her mother.

"My mother was always open to progressive thoughts," Zhu said.

Through the help of the publishers, Zhu contacted Qin Feng, a former journalist of the Taipei-based China Times who had stumbled across the photos in 1999.

Entrusted by the Zhu family, veteran reporter Qin sought out the remaining relatives in Taiwan hoping to locate the last resting place of Zhu Feng.


Chen Baochang, Zhu Feng, Wu Shi and Nie Xi listen to their death sentence at a special military court in Taipei on June 10, 1950.  Photos: Courtesy of Qin Feng.

Stepdaughter found

Hopes soared when Qin found Zhu Feng's stepdaughter Chen Lianfang in an elderly rest home, but Chen revealed that she had never claimed the body after execution.

"What Chen did to her stepmother might seem cold-blooded," Qin said. "But Zhu's mission in Taiwan had placed Chen in great danger from the very outset."

Chen was working at the bureau for the protection of state secrets while her husband Wang Changcheng worked at the police bureau. It was the young couple's powerful Kuomintang credentials that unknowingly protected Zhu Feng's dangerous espionage activities.

"Revolution means cruelty and sacrifice," said Qin, offering sympathy for both sides of an old and bitter Chinese argument.

By the time they attended a ceremony commemorating the centenary of Zhu Feng's birth in her hometown of Ningbo in 2005, the family had more or less abandoned all their search efforts.

Biographer Feng Yitong spent three years interviewing Zhu Feng's colleagues and friends and another three years researching and writing his 2007 book.

"I was curious about what converted a middle-aged intellectual lady into an idealistic and steadfast new woman during an era of upheavals," said the Nanjing writer. "Plus my mother was born the same year as Zhu Feng."

Then in 2009 Shanghai scholar Pan Zhen came across an important clue searching for his father Pan Chengde: Zhu Feng's pseudonym was "Zhu Chenzhi" in Taiwan. Written in cursive style, the cover name resembles "Zhu Zhanwen." That name appeared on a roster of political criminals that Pan acquired searching for his father.

Remains found

Grabbing hold of this vital clue, Taiwanese scholars and funeral parlor staff combined to finally locate Zhu Feng's long-lost remains in the Fude Cemetery of Taipei.

Following a further six months of tortuous bureaucratic procedures, Zhu Feng's remains finally landed in Beijing on December 9 to be held in storage at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery.

"Beijing wanted Zhu's remains brought back to commemorate her as a revolutionary martyr," Qin said.


"Although Straits relations are relaxed, positive cooperation occurs mainly in the arenas of economics and trade."

"A common ground for the resolution of historical enmities has not yet been established."

More than 300 unidentified people are also buried in the cemetery alongside Zhu.

"After the execution, the bodies of political prisoners were available for relatives to claim," Qin said.

"But in the 1950s, when Taiwan was undergoing the White Terror, being identified as the relative of a political prisoner might have been an unwise move. That's why many didn't dare claim the bodies."

Qin Feng has compiled a systematic list of 303 names that was published on huanqiu.com and the Chinese version of the Global Times on Jan 21.

"The project needs 500,000 yuan to hire four workers to work for a year," Qin said.

The project will include first verifying names, then checking on remains at the cemetery and the political identities of each person, and matching them with trial verdicts. The final step is to contact Chinese mainland authorities to help him find relatives.

"It should not depend on the kindness of one person."

Qin would prefer to raise funds from wider society and keep politics out of it as much as possible.

The Taiwanese authorities should adopt a better attitude, believes the deputy secretary general of the Beijing-based National Society of Taiwan Studies.

"If the government would appropriate some funds and arrange some people, it would speed up the process," Yang Lixian said.

Painful history

The civil war background complicates everything, Yang warned. On the mainland catching Kuomintang "spies" was a popular pastime until the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution: President of China Liu Shaoqi and his wife Wang Guangmei were designated spies, as were two members of China's championship ping-pong team.

The Zhu Feng case is a "good start" on an extremely sensitive and emotive issue with both sides of the Straits, Yang says. Individual, non-governmental behavior can help to reconcile historic enmity and boost trust.

"Small things like this build good faith," Yang said. "Digging up this history is only done for the sake of dealing with today's problems."

If people dredge up the past and try to form judgments of what was right or wrong, Yang said, they won't ever be able to forgive or forget.

"The mainland buried their martyrs in Babaoshan while the Kuomintang put theirs in Zhonglieci.

"Showing respect for life itself and keeping silent is a means of reconciliation for the government.

"When the political civilization of both sides advance to a certain level, there will be a point in the future when deeper discussion of this period of history is made possible."


Zhu Feng's life

1905 Born in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, to a local gentry family.

1921 Enters the Ningbo Normal School for Women, a school with revolutionary tradition

1927 Marries Chen Shouqing, general engineer of the Fengtian Arsenal, in Shenyang.

1931 The family moves back to Ningbo after the Mukden Incident

1932 Chen Shouqing dies of cholera

1937 Participates in the anti-Japanese war with the later husband Zhu Xiaoguang and works in the Xinzhi Bookstore, which closely related to the communist government at that time

1945 Joins the Chinese Communist Party in Shanghai

1948 Dispatched to Hong Kong as a secret agent.

November 1949 Dispatched to Taiwan for intelligence gathering and espionage.

January 1950 Taiwan Communist underground leader Cai Xiaoqian defects and 400 agents are exposed by his confession; Zhu escapes arrest and flees to Kuomintang-occupied Zhoushan Island, off Zhejiang Province.

February 1950 Arrested after failing to commit suicide by swallowing a gold necklace. Transported to Taipei for trial.

May 1950 Communists take Zhoushan Island from Kuomintang in an amphibious operation.

June 10, 1950 Zhu executed in Taipei.

source: Zhenhai's daughter, the biography of Zhu Feng, written by Feng Yitong

Fast facts: The Wu Shi espionage case

Wu Shi, a senior general in the Kuomintang, became deputy chief of the Ministry of National Defense in Taiwan after the 1949 relocation.

Critical of Chiang Kai-shek, Wu started providing military intelligence to the Chinese Communist Party in 1948. Then in January 1950, Cai Xiaoqian, head of the Communist underground organization in Taiwan, defected.

Cai's confession led to the arrest of more than 400 Communist spies including Wu and Zhu Feng.

Wu Shi and Zhu Feng were executed in Taipei on June 10, 1950.

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