The Fate of the 15 Comrades at CCP’s First National Congress

July 10, 2021 Updated: July 12, 2021


On July 23, 1921, under the control of the Communist International (Comintern), the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held its first national congress meeting in Shanghai. It was a time when China suffered from regional warlords and the government fought the CCP’s red terrors.

A total of 15 CCP comrades joined the meeting, namely:

Comintern representatives: Nikolsky (Vladimir Abramovich Neumann, pdf), and Maring (Henk Sneevliet);
Shanghai representatives: Li Da, Li Hanjun;
Beijing representatives: Zhang Guotao, Liu Renjing;
Changsha representatives: Mao Zedong, He Shuheng;
Wuhan representatives: Dong Biwu, Chen Tanqiu;
Jinan representatives: Wang Jinmei, Deng Enming;
Guangzhou representative: Chen Gongbo;
Japanese student representative: Zhou Fohai;
In addition, Chen Duxiu (the co-founder of the CCP) assigned Bao Huiseng to bring his letter to the meeting.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the CCP, I would like to briefly review the final outcome of the above 15 people.

Seven Were Killed by the Communist Parties or Their Political Opponents

The Comintern Envoys

Nikolsky, a Soviet intelligence officer, and Maring, a Dutchman and a representative of the Russian Comintern, were both ordered by the Communist Party of Russia (Bolsheviks) to carry on their mission of subverting the Chinese government, the Republic of China.

In June 1921, Nikolsky was sent to China by the Comintern’s Far Eastern Bureau. With the instruction and funding of the Comintern, he met another Comintern envoy, Maring, in Shanghai. They both got hold of Li Da and Li Hanjun (both were founding members of the CCP).

On July 23, 1921, both Nikolsky and Maring joined the congress and did a lot of work in China before, during, and after the meeting.

However, on Sept. 21, 1938, Nikolsky was recalled to Moscow and shot after being charged with espionage in Khabarovsk Krai during the Great Purge in the Soviet Union.

Maring was executed by the Nazis who occupied The Netherlands on April 12, 1942.

Four Killed by the Political Opponents, One Tortured to Death by the CCP

Li Hanjun, from Qianjiang, Hubei, studied at Tokyo Imperial University. He was fluent in four languages, Japanese, German, French, and English. He was one of the first to introduce Marxism in China.

On Dec. 17, 1927, Li was arrested as a “CCP chief member” and executed that night by Hu Zongduo, commander of the Wuhan Garrison District.

Deng Enming was sentenced to death by the Shandong Provincial Provisional Military Law Trial Committee of the Republic of China and executed on April 5, 1931.

He Shuheng jumped off a cliff and fell to his death when he tried to escape from the government’s National Revolutionary Army (NRA) siege in Changting, Fujian in 1935.

Chen Tanqiu was secretly executed by the warlord Sheng Shicai in Dihua, Xinjiang (now Urumqi) on Sept. 27, 1943.

Li Da was tortured to death by the CCP after being charged as “a representative of the bourgeoisie and a reactionary academic that sneaked into the Party” on Aug. 24, 1966.

When the Cultural Revolution started on May 16, 1966, the intellectuals in the Party were taken down one after another. For example, the three “big pens” in Beijing, Deng Tuo, deputy secretary of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee, Wu Han, deputy mayor, and Liao Mosha, head of the United Front Work of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee, were purged. CCP’s well-known Marxist theorist, Li Da, then president of Wuhan University was also one of them.

On Aug. 1, Li was expelled from the Party, removed from his positions inside and outside the Party, labeled as the landlord element (class), and subject to supervision and reform.

After that, Li went through abusive interrogations in various meetings both large and small. He was denied any public or private medical attention. He wrote to Mao Zedong seeking urgent help, but to no avail. Finally, he died of a serious illness.

Six People Defected or Withdrew From the CCP

Zhang Guotao, along with Chen Duxiu and Li Da, was elected as members of the Central Bureau at the congress. Since then, Zhang held many important positions in the CCP and was one of the main leaders of the Fourth Division of the Red Army.

After the NRA’s fifth encirclement and annihilation campaign against the CCP troops, the CCP was forced to take on the so-called Long March to evade the defeat by the NRA. The Red Army was in a split in 1935 because Zhang Guotao and Mao Zedong had a disagreement on the issue of going north or going south.

Zhang and his southbound army formed a separate central, known as the second central committee in CCP history. After suffering from defeat, he had to go north. Under the order of the Comintern, the second central was dismissed and Zhang was relieved of command of the Fourth Division. The Fourth Division was reorganized into the West Route Army and went northwest. The entire troop was almost completely annihilated in the Hexi Corridor.

At the end of March 1937, the CCP held a Politburo meeting in Yan’an. At the meeting, Mao Zedong, Zhang Wentian, Kai Feng, and others severely criticized Zhang Guotao. The meeting passed the “resolution on Zhang Guotao’s mistakes,” accusing Zhang of having “disobeyed the Party and Central Committee, splitted the Red Army,” and engaged in the path of “right opportunism” and “warlordism.”

Zhang’s subordinates such as Xu Shiyou etc. were also implicated. They were attacked and labeled as “Xu Shiyou counter-revolutionary group.”

Xu Xiangqian, the former commander-in-chief of the Fourth Division, wrote in his memoirs in his later years complaining that the case was unjust.

In November 1937, Wang Ming, head of the CCP delegation to the Comintern, returned to Yan’an. Wang Ming told Zhang Guotao frightening news: Zhang’s cronies such as Li Te, who was the former deputy chief of staff of the Fourth Division, had been secretly executed in Xinjiang on the charge of “Trotskyites.”

In his later years, Zhang Guotao wrote about his state of mind at this time in “My Memories.”

“I recall the past and feel that in the past I did not approve of this or that policy, opposed this or that measure, and was busy with this or that matter. It’s a minor thing. I hate things like struggle and power, and I believe they’re just ridiculous. I think there’s a dark side in everything in this world. There are sins in politics, and revolution does not necessarily mean holiness. As for those who abandon morale for the sake of a certain political need is even more despicable. I had not decided to leave the circle of my own creation, but I had realized the threat of this dark side. I had realized the fundamental flaws of the communist movement were too big. This extremely reactionary dictatorship will destroy all ideals.”

In Sept. 1937, Zhang Guotao was appointed as the vice chairman of the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region Government under the second united front policy between the CCP and KMT during the resisting war against Japanese invasion. It was a position with no real power.

On April 5, 1938, during the Ching Ming Festival, Zhang Guotao took the opportunity of leaving Yan’an to attend the ceremony at the Huangdi Mausoleum in central Shaanxi, “rebelling against the Party” and surrendering to the government of the Republic of China. Zhang said in his withdrawal statement: “This Communist Party is no longer the one I have longed for and fought for in my life!” After the CCP came to power in 1949, Zhang fled to Hong Kong.

In 1966, after the Cultural Revolution broke out, Zhang Guotao’s former party comrades such as Liu Shaoqi and others went through “beaten,” “fried,” “fired,” and “stepped on by 10,000 feet.” The fire even spread to Hong Kong.

Zhang Guotao’s three sons have all moved abroad and developed their own careers, a teacher, an engineer, and a doctor. In 1968, Zhang moved to Toronto, Canada.

When his former CCP comrades were either killed or imprisoned one by one in Qincheng Prison, wounded, handicapped, and families torn apart, Zhang spent 11 years in Canada in his old age. On Dec. 3, 1979, he passed away peacefully.

Epoch Times Photo
Communist Party cadres hang a placard on the neck of a Chinese man during the Cultural Revolution in 1966. The words on the placard state the man’s name and accuse him of being a member of the “black class.” (Public Domain)

Zhou Fohai withdrew from the CCP in 1924. During the War of Resistance Against Japan, he joined the puppet regime in eastern China led by Wang Jingwei under the support of the invading Empire of Japan, and served as the vice president of the Executive Yuan. He also served as the minister of finance, the secretary-general of the Central Political Committee, the president of the Central Reserve Bank, the mayor of Shanghai, the Shanghai security commander, and the chairman of the Material Control Committee. After Japan surrendered, Zhou Fohai was arrested and sentenced to death on Nov. 7, 1946. Chiang Kai-shek ordered Zhou Fohai’s death sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment because of his effort to maintain local stability during the time when Japan surrendered. On Feb. 28, 1948, he died of a heart attack in Nanjing Laohuqiao Prison.

Chen Gongbo withdrew from the CCP in 1922. During the War of Resistance Against Japan, he also joined Wang Jingwei’s puppet regime and served as the first legislative chairman, acting chairman of the National Government, president of the Executive Yuan, and chairman of the military committee. He was the second person in the regime of Wang Jingwei. After Japan’s defeat, he fled to Japan and was extradited back to China. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to death in 1946 and executed on June 3 of the same year.

Li Hanjun seceded from the CCP in 1922 and was expelled from the CCP in 1924.

Li Da separated from the CCP from 1923 to 1949.

Bao Huiseng, who withdrew from the CCP in 1927, died of illness in Beijing in 1979.

One Killed by a Bus

In 1921, Liu Renjing was only 19 years old and studying in the Department of Physics of Peking University. He joined the first national congress of the CCP as a representative of the Beijing Communist Group. In Sept. 1922, Liu went to Moscow to participate in the fourth congress of the Comintern; after that, he attended the third congress of the Young Comintern; in 1923, he was the general secretary of the Communist Youth League.

In 1926, Liu Renjing was selected to study at the Lenin Institute in Moscow. During this period, Trotsky lost his struggle against Stalin and was expelled from the party and the country as a “counter-revolutionary.” Liu was impressed with Trotsky’s ideal.

In the summer of 1929, after graduation, Liu Renjing made a special detour on his way back to China in order to see Trotsky. In August 1929, Liu went to Turkey to meet Trotsky secretly. After returning to China, he established the October Society, a Trotskyist organization. At the end of 1929, he was expelled from the CCP for his Trotskyist activities.

After the CCP took power, Liu confessed his mistakes in a newspaper to Mao Zedong. In 1950, Liu taught at Beijing Normal University. In 1951, he became a translator working at People’s Publishing House.

During the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Liu Renjing was unable to escape, suffering from criticism, brutal beatings, and house ransacking. In June 1967, he was imprisoned in Qincheng Prison. He was not released until the end of 1978 and was detained for 11 years.

At about 5:20 in the morning on Aug. 5, 1987, while he was crossing the street to his morning exercise at the campus of Beijing Normal University, he was run over by a city bus and died.

Four Died of Illness

In addition to the aforementioned Bao Huiseng, the other three who died of illness are:

Wang Jinmei died in Qingdao on Aug. 19, 1925, at age of 27.

Dong Biwu died in Beijing on April 2, 1975.

Mao Zedong died in Beijing on Sept. 9, 1976.


Of the 15 people at the first national congress of the CCP, two foreigners were eventually shot to death, eight Chinese comrades died of abnormal causes. In fact, seven of them died before the CCP took power. Mao was the only one who made it through the Cultural Revolution without being persecuted among the surviving comrades.

Why would it happen like that? This question is worth pondering. In November 2011, The Epoch Times published a series of editorials “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,” which provided an in-depth discussion on the ins and outs, characteristics, and nature of the CCP. Readers are suggested to read this book carefully, which may provide great enlightenment.

Wang Youqun graduated with a Ph.D. in 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.

Wang Youqun
Wang Youqun
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.