The wave of Communist attacks in China caused widespread outrage. Something had to be done about it. The people responsible for the attacks were executed if caught. But there was also concern that Communists had infiltrated the government. The concerns were not unfounded. There were government officials in China who were Communists or had ties to the Soviet Union. Some had been purged earlier during the Civil War, but some remained. Legislative Yuan President Chen Lifu and Minister of the NBIS Ye Xiufeng both claimed that Communist infiltration was one of the greatest threats, if not the greatest threat, facing China. Chiang Kai-shek was increasingly agreeing with them. The two men were asked to make lists of which members of the Legislative Yuan they thought were Communists. Chiang asked Premier Weng Wenhao to do the same.
The three lists were handed in to Chiang Kai-shek in September 1958. Each list was separated into three columns. One column for those who might be Communists, one for those who were probably Communists, and one for those who were almost certainly Communists. Ye’s list included some names in read, which indicated they should be executed . The lists ranged from between fifteen names (Weng Wenhao) and over fifty (Ye Xiufeng). Most of the names did not surprise Chiang. There would also be investigations into the Judicial, Control, and Examination Yuan as well as the National Assembly and the military. In October, the Juntong discovered, captured, and killed a KGB agent in Nanking, fueling further concerns about infiltration of the government. During the same month, two Juntong agents were killed in Moscow.
Wang Kunlun, a member of the Legislative Yuan, fled the country by boat in October. He reached North Korea and was held captive until his captors figured out who he was. He was then sent to the Soviet Union. Wang was a Communist and had given classified information to the Soviets. He was denounced as a traitor throughout China. The public was supportive of the government’s investigation of suspected Communists. The Central Daily News, the official newspaper of the Kuomintang, was sounding the alarm against Communist infiltration. Investigations would be held in the Legislative Yuan from fifth to the tenth of November. Several members of the Legislative Yuan would be questioned by Juntong agents and members of the control Yuan. Premier Weng Wenhao presided over the hearings.
There were hundreds of witnesses brought to the stand throughout the hearings. They were people who had interacted with the accused at some time, or at least they claimed they had. It was revealed that some members of the Legislative Yuan were actually Communist sympathizers. Though none were discovered to be full-fledged Marxists themselves or have ties to the Communist exiles in Mongolia so none of them would receive the death penalty. The accused were usually those who had advocated for peace between the Communists and Nationalists during the civil war. Li Feng of Songjiang was the first to be expelled from the Legislative Yuan. He denied the allegations brought forth against him. Chiang Ping-chiang of Sichuan, a Kuomintang leftist, was accused of being a Communist, and was expelled from the Legislative Yuan despite her denials. Mei Ju-ao of Jiangxi was a respected judge who participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Several witnesses attested to Mei’s sympathies for the Communists. He was purged from the Legislative Yuan.
(Left: Chiang Ping-chiang, Right: Mei Ju-ao)
Many members of the Legislative Yuan began to express disapproval that Mei Ju-ao had been purged, and some began to question the necessity of the hearings. But the hearings continued. Lei Chen, an independent from Zhejiang, was accused of being a Communist. Lei had been highly critical of many government policies. He believed that China was not democratic enough. He was not a Communist, however, and he had no Communist sympathies. His friend Fei Hsi-ping of Liaoning, who was still a member of the Kuomintang at this time, was also one of the accused. More and more people in the government, convinced that many of the accused were innocent, believed that the investigations had gone too far. The young independent Liang Su-yung of Liaobei spoke out against the hearings. Other members of the Legislative Yuan spoke out as well.
(Left to right: Lei Chen, Fei Hsi-ping, Liang Su-yung)
Chiang Kai-shek and Weng Wenhao agreed to end the purge of the Legislative Yuan, and declared that the Communist threat from within the chamber had been taken care of. In total, 21 members of the Legislative Yuan were purged. Members of the National Assembly were purged, along with politicians in the Judicial, Control, and Examination Yuan. General Fu Zuoyi, who had fought against the Communists in the civil war, was accused of being a secret Communist. The evidence for this was that Communist spies had worked for him in the past. He received a demotion. General Zhao Shoushan was purged from the army. At the provincial and local level there were purges as well, though they failed to generate as much attention. By January 1959, the country and the government had largely moved on.
1: A cultural thing, if you ever go to China, don't write anyone's name in red.