It was rumored that top Chinese security official Dong Jingwei defected to the United States earlier this year and this has received a lot of media attention. Various media outlets reported that he gave U.S. intelligence top-secret documents, including information on the origin of COVID-19. As a result, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) considers Dong a traitor and this incident prompted Xi Jinping to call on all CCP members to retake the loyalty oath and pledge their allegiance to the Party.
Beijing’s top watchdog agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, published an article on June 19 titled, “Never Betraying the Party Is More than Just an Oath.” The article specifically referred to Notice No.223 of “Perpetual Expulsion of Gu Shunzhang from the Party” by the CCP Central Committee on May 21, 1931. It was to call on all Party members to fight against those who go against the CCP.
This situation resembles a case that dates back to the time when the Communists tried to subvert the Chinese government (Republic of China) led by the Kuomintang (KMT). Zhou Enlai, vice chairman of the CCP, ordered the killing of Gu Shunzhang’s relatives, who they labeled a traitor.
Who Is Gu Shunzhang?
Gu Shunzhang was born in Wusong, a district in Baoshan in northern Shanghai. He joined the CCP in 1924 and was sent to the Soviet Union in 1926 to learn political defense. In August 1930, he served as a member of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the CCP—the highest organization to direct national armed riots and general strikes. In 1930 and 1931, he was elected as an alternate member of the Politburo at the Third and Fourth Plenary Sessions of the Sixth Central Committee of the CCP.
Gu is one of the veterans and chiefs of the CCP’s early intelligence and political defense agency, the Central Special Operations Division, familiar with the CCP’s secret operation methods and activities, covering areas of security, defense, intelligence, transportation, among other things.
On April 25, 1931, Gu was arrested by Cai Mengjian, head of the Hankou Police Department of the National Government in Hubei Province. He defected to the National Government but refused to reveal the high-ranking CCP leaders’ names and addresses before meeting with Chiang Kai-shek, chairman of the Koumintang (KMT) and President of the Republic of China at that time. On April 27, Cai escorted Gu to Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.
On the evening of April 25, 1931, Cai sent six encrypted telegrams to his superior in Nanjing, reporting the apprehension of Gu. Qian Zhuangfei, a CCP agent who infiltrated the National Government, received the telegrams in Nanjing and notified the leader of the CCP in Shanghai, Zhou Enlai.
Zhou organized the transfer of important organs and personnel from the Central Committee of the CCP in Shanghai, the Jiangsu Provincial Party Committee, and the Far Eastern Bureau of the Comintern after receiving the notification. All were transferred to new locations and all ties with Gu were severed.
On June 10, 1931, a report from the Far Eastern Bureau of the Comintern in Shanghai to the Communist International stated, “Our secret agent in Nanjing, Qian Zhuangfei, reported to Zhou Enlai on April 25 that a Communist Party member was arrested in Hankou, who proved to be an alternate member of the Politburo of the CCP and was responsible for espionage. He would meet Chiang Kai-shek and Nanjing secret agents to reveal things he knew, and work for the Nanjing government.”
“At first, we did not believe Gu would rebel and later thought he would not immediately reveal everything. After a weekly discussion, we still could not confirm the authenticity of the information,” the report said.
According to the report, such rebellion was extremely troublesome because Gu knew all the Chinese comrades and the residences of Comintern agents in China. However, as of June 10, 1931, there was no arrest of senior CCP leaders and Comintern agents in Shanghai due to Gu’s defection.
The Bloodless Murder of Gu’s Relatives
After obtaining Qian’s information, Zhou ordered Hong Yangsheng, the chief of the First Division of the Central Special Division, and some henchmen who had no personal relationship with Gu, to murder Gu’s family at their home.
Hong recounted the operation led by Zhou himself. They strangled the victims with ropes and buried them in the yard. They even cemented the burial site to conceal the odor of the decaying bodies.
On that day, all the adults in Gu’s household, including his wife, were killed, except for Gu’s 3-year-old daughter, a 2-year-old nephew, and a brother-in-law who was in boarding school at that time.
Those people did not betray the CCP. The only reason they were killed was that they were associated with Gu as his relatives, servants, or friends.
Gu Accuses Zhou of Murder
On Nov. 29, 1931, Gu issued “An Urgent Notice of a Reward for the Apprehension of the Murderers Zhou Enlai et al.” in Shun Pao, known in English as Shanghai News.
The notice read: “Inspired by revolutionary trends in the thirteenth year of the ROC, I, myself, Gu Shunzhang went astray with the CCP. I had participated in confidential activities for several years. In view of the Party’s retrogression that is corrupt and harms people, utterly contradicting my initial intention to partake in the revolution, I proactively withdrew from the Party in April this year and defected to the National Government.”
“The Communist Party leaders Zhou Enlai, Zhao Rong, et al. murdered more than a dozen of my relatives and friends. They also took over $8,000 worth of property from my mother-in-law, including a $3,000 bank deposit. Such a barbarous act against innocent people is unprecedented. The National Government has offered a reward of 20,000 yuan [around $3,000] for the apprehension of those responsible for the crime. I also offer an additional reward of 3,000 yuan for the same purpose.”
Why did Gu accuse Zhou of being a murderer? Gu had been very worried about the safety of his family since his arrest. He later saw his brother-in-law, Zhang Changgeng, and asked him to find the Central Special Division agents on the street. Zhang recognized agent Wang Shide who happened to be one of the killers. Wang divulged information about the murder of Gu’s family after being arrested.
Agent Wang Calls Zhou a Murderous Leader
According to Wang, on Nov. 23, 1931, the Shanghai police, along with Shanghai’s chief prosecutor Chen Mansan, prosecutor Ding Shikui, forensic doctors Wei Ligong and Jiang Xuan, and secretary Peng Shan excavated the burial sites. Eleven bodies were exhumed. Having been widely reported by Chinese and foreign media, the case caused a sensation in Shanghai and shocked people at home and abroad.
On Jan. 11, 1932, Shun Pao published the article “Wang Shide’s Important Statement on Withdrawing from the Communist Party.”
It read: “I joined the Communist Party in the 16th year of the Republic of China. For the past two years, I had served as a special agent of the Party’s Central Committee. Because of the Party’s going against social norms, harming the society, and inhumane and fratricidal acts, I paid allegiance to the KMT the previous month and withdrew from the Communist Party. Moreover, the informant whose pseudonym was Li Longzhang of last month’s Shanghai exhumation case was me. The tragedy was indeed led by the Communist Party leaders Zhou Enlai and Zhao Rong, and I partook in the murder and burying. I disclosed the Party’s secret murder and cruel acts since repenting to the National Government. Hence, this appalling exhumation could come to light. I hereby attach this statement so that people from all walks of life can fully discern the evil of the Communist Party.”
What Information Did Gu Disclose?
In the 1920s and 1930s, Li Qiang was the chief of the Fourth Division of the Central Special Division, Chen Geng was the chief of the Second Division, and Gu was the chief of the Third Division. The three men had worked together for many years and were very good friends. After the CCP came to power, Li served as Minister of Foreign Trade.
In 1983, Li met with Gu’s second wife, Zhang Yongqin, and Gu’s daughter, Gu Liqun, at the Shanghai International Hotel. Gu Liqun recalled: “He [Li] said that the incident has become history. Under the circumstances, they had to take such actions for the revolution when push came to shove. He clarified three points. First, Gu did not betray Xiang Zhongfa. Second, the Wu Hao Incident [the KMT used Zhou Enlai’s pseudonym, Wu Hao, to publish a notice of a withdrawal of the Communist Party to destroy the CCP’s morale] was not Gu’s act. Third, the only thing Gu did was betray Yun Daiying, an early leader of the CCP, who was in the [Nanjing] prison.”
Zhou’s Relationship With Gu
On May 25, 1927, Zhou was appointed as the CCP’s Minister of the Military Commission, responsible for the CCP’s activities within the National Revolutionary Army. In the same month, the Military Department established the Special Agents Office (Division), and the Division chief was Gu.
In November 1927, the Central Special Agent Division was formally established in Shanghai under the direct command of Zhou, with four divisions: general affairs, intelligence, operations, and telecommunications. Gu was the chief of the operations.
In June 1928, Zhou was elected as a member of the Political Bureau, Standing Committee, and Secretary-General of the Standing Committee of the CCP at the 6th CCP National Congress held in Moscow. On Nov. 14 of the same year, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau decided to institute a special committee composed of Xiang Zhongfa, Zhou Enlai, and Gu Shunzhang to directly lead the Central Special Agents Division.
Chinese American scholar Feng Shengping believes through textual research that Gu did not immediately reveal all the secrets he knew of the CCP after being arrested and that the only CCP official who was directly identified by him and killed was Yun Daiying. Gu’s determination to be an enemy of the CCP came after Zhou’s murder of his family.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP. For 100 years, the CCP has witnessed infighting among political rivals. Back then, the operation division led by Gu, also known as the “dog-beating team,” was dedicated to catching and killing “traitors.” Gu was said to be cruel when it came to killing. However, his former superior Zhou was even more cold-hearted when Gu was considered a “traitor.”
Now the CCP brings up Gu’s case to warn potential defectors of the consequences of betraying the Party. Some say that the CCP’s internal struggles is worse than external fights. Needless to say, the CCP will eventually collapse from within.
Wang Youqun graduated with a Ph.D. of Law from the Renmin University of China. He once worked as a copywriter for Wei Jianxing (1931–2015), a member of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee from 1997 to 2002.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.