Huang Mulan finished her autobiography when she was 97 years old. The book was finally published last year when she was 105. She currently lives in Hangzhou, China.
Huang was once a spy for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is also known as a red spy. Her life has been nothing short of a drama. She was once a worker in a cotton mill, wife of a famous attorney, a banker, and a social butterfly among the elite in Shanghai. She was imprisoned four times, twice by the Nationalists and twice by the Communists.
Married to become revolution partners
Huang was born in 1907 to a scholarly family in Liuyang, Hunan Province. According to historical records, she was married to four men and gave birth to eight children. Six of her children survived — three boys and three girls. To her, being a red spy was always the top priority.
In 1926, Huang became a member of the CCP at the age of 19. She married Wan Xiyan on March 8, 1927. Wan was Chief Editor of the CCP central newspaper Republic Daily and was Chief Secretary of the Secretariat of the CCP Central Military Commission.
No ceremony was held when they got married — it was simply announced at a CCP meeting. The Party published a notice in the newspaper saying they had become “revolution partners.”
After the Nationalists and the Communists became enemies in 1927, Huang and Wan began to work undercover. After Wan died, Huang married He Chang, a member of the Central Commission. The marriage took place in Shanghai in 1929 with Premier Zhou Enlai’s approval.
Later, He was ordered to go to Suqu, the CCP’s revolution base. Huang wished to go with her husband, but her wish was denied. Huang cried for three days and refused to obey the order. Her husband insisted that she obey the Party. In 1931, Huang left her second husband.
Huang’s last husband was Chen Zhigao, a famous lawyer in Shanghai who worked for the Nationalist Party. The CCP made the decision for her. Marrying Chen Zhigao, she was told, was in the best interests of the Party, since Chen had been appointed as Huang’s target person to spy on. To marry anyone else would have been the equivalent of betraying the Party.
Red spy is branded a ‘counter-revolutionary’
In 1953, Huang wrote to Chen while he was in Taiwan and asked for a divorce. In 1955, she was branded a “counter-revolutionary.” Agents from a public security bureau arrested her in the middle of the night. She was transferred to Qincheng Prison in 1960.
In the winter of 1963, she was sentenced to three years in prison for being a traitor, a spy, and a counter-revolutionary. She was released the same year due to medical reasons and went to live with her son.
In August 1966, during the thick of the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards kidnapped Huang, shaved her head, incarcerated her, and made her sleep on a wooden bench. The Red Guards broke three of her ribs, tied her hands behind her back, and publicly humiliated her.
On June 10, 1967, the pro-revolutionary members dragged her out of her house and put her in Qincheng Prison again. Her blood pressure shot up to 220 mm Hg while she was in prison, and she asked the nurse to take down her will.
In February 1975, her daughter, Yun Zhong, wrote a letter to Zhou Enlai’s wife, Deng Yingchao, who was also a very high ranking CCP official, and asked for her mother’s whereabouts. Huang was released in May. Five years later in 1980, Huang received a letter that redressed her. She was 73 years old.
Some Internet commentators say that the CCP arranged her marriage three times so she could be of better use to the Party. After 1949, when the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan, Huang lost her value to the Party as a spy.
The CCP not only did not take care of her, but put her in prison. This is the tragic story of a heroine who dedicated her life to serving the CCP, but was subsequently betrayed by the CCP.
Translated by Hsin Lin