Shanghai Life and Death(65)

“Give an account of your husband’s participation in the British secret service.” The interrogator said.

“I can’t answer you when you say that.”

“You are discreet, aren’t you? The imperialists trained you to be competent, didn’t they? And you are stubbornly resistant.” That interrogator said.

The old worker said, “You will first answer the questions asked by the interrogator. The question about the British secret service organization, we will leave it aside for now.”

“That’s exactly right! It is only after investigation and research that we can draw conclusions. That’s what Chairman Mao taught us. He said, ‘Without investigation and research, you have no right to speak.'” I said to them.

The interrogator slapped the table again and shouted: “It’s your turn to lecture us? You are so arrogant, you forget that you are a prisoner and we represent the people’s government.”

“I hope the representatives of the people’s government will be reasonable, obey the law, and investigate my problems clearly.” I said.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to start doing, but you won’t account for it.”

“I cannot give an irresponsible and false account. I don’t believe an untrue account will be of value to the government or to others; it will only add to the confusion. I haven’t done anything illegal, and I want to tell the truth. If I am lying and hiding something, you can punish me severely. If you agree, you can give me a piece of paper and I will willingly sign as a witness.” I said. The recorder and the interrogator discussed a few things, and then handed me a piece of paper. I went to the writing desk and wrote, “I am a patriotic Chinese and a law-abiding citizen. I have never done anything against the people’s government. If the government finds out that I have tried to steal secret information from anyone in the country, I am willing to take the death penalty. If the results of the investigation, prove that I am indeed innocent, then the people’s government must give me a complete clarification of the facts, publish a statement in the newspaper, apologize to me and restore my reputation.”

I signed it, wrote the date of the day, and handed it to the interrogator. He read it himself and then passed it on to the others to read. The old worker took out his presbyopic glasses and wiped them, put them on, and then also read the note, nodding his head in agreement as he did so, and then he pointed to the special seat for prisoners and said to me, “Sit down! Sit down!”

The young worker and the soldier, however, refused to read my pledge. The young worker said coldly, “You’re putting up a bluff and scary stance like a guy playing ‘sand crab’.”

The interrogator handed my affidavit to the recorder, who put it in a folder.

“How did your husband become the general manager of Asia’s Shanghai office?” The interrogator asked.

“A policy established by Asean after World War II was that a general manager of local nationality had to be hired in the country where the branch office was opened.” I told them.

“Is it possible that they thought that a Chinese, like your husband, would have easier access to more information than a British general manager?” He asked.

“The only advantage that makes my husband a better general manager than a British manager is that he knows Chinese. When he negotiates with the representatives of the Chinese government import/export companies, he doesn’t need to use an interpreter.” I told him.

“Your husband has made several trips to and from Hong Kong, and you both also traveled to England and Europe in 1956.” The interrogator said, “We take it very seriously that you two went to Europe because we understand that you were on assignment at the headquarters of the British secret service organization.”

“You are talking nonsense. We went to London to get in touch with the head office of Asia, and then we went to the branch office in The Hague, the capital of the Netherlands, because the branch of the head office of Asia was located there. My husband discussed with the directors there about the plans for doing business in China. He was urgently asked by the Beijing Import and Export Company and the chemical company to go there to make contact with them, and they wanted to order a lot of goods from Asean. The prospects for Sino-British trade seemed promising, and many British experts were hired to help with research work in China. But soon after our return, the anti-rightist movement began, followed by the Great Leap Forward, so everything was put on hold. The leaders in Beijing were too busy to make any more decisions about all this. The experts who had already left for China Asia had to call back midway. So we couldn’t work any further.” I told them.

“How did you get a passport? Who gave you permission to go to Europe? Generally speaking, you are not allowed to leave the country in a private capacity.” The interrogator said.

“My husband applied for a passport from the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office. We were able to approve it, probably because the government thought his trip would be beneficial to China.” I said.

I remember accompanying my husband to Beijing when he was invited by the Beijing Import and Export Corporation to discuss the purchase of pesticides and fertilizers from Asia. That was at a time when Mao Zedong was intent on dramatically increasing grain production in order to prove the superiority of the primary form of agricultural cooperatives established in 1955. The day before we returned to Shanghai, when my husband finally went to contact the import-export company again, the person in charge, with whom we had been negotiating smoothly for a week, told my husband that our passports had been approved and that we could contact the foreign affairs office in Shanghai. Then he said to us again very cautiously, “Your passports were approved by the Premier himself.” Normally when a party cadre talks to a non-party person like my husband, he always narrows the scope of involvement to the minimum, the simpler the better. We think that this time he had to specifically point out that our visit was personally approved by Premier Zhou to encourage my husband to do his best to secure from Asia in London all the supplies needed by the Beijing Import and Export Company.

The interrogator had emphasized that we were going to London to “visit” the headquarters of the British secret service and to receive an assignment. If that was the case, and I was forced to give an explanation, then the fact that Premier Zhou personally signed our passports was, to put it mildly, tantamount to supporting the secret service. Do the ultra-leftists suspect Premier Zhou? I don’t think it’s possible or reasonable at all. But isn’t the criticism of Liu Shaoqi equally incomprehensible and unreasonable? The interrogator had said that he wanted me to give an account because other people were involved in the case, and he had also said that there were other leaders who were “fighting the red flag against the red flag”. Did he include Premier Zhou? I can only speculate, but I don’t think I’ll ever get an answer. But I never thought that Lin Biao and Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, would try to exclude Zhou Enlai. Every Chinese knows that Jiang Qing hated Zhou Enlai, and Lin Biao probably thought that Premier Zhou was an obstacle to the realization of his own ambitions.

The voice of the interrogator pulled my mind back to the interrogation room. He was saying to me, “Your visit to Britain has not played any positive role for the Chinese government.”

“My husband heard from the leaders who received him in Beijing that if he could buy the supplies China needed from Asia, he would be doing China a service. They also said that trading with foreign countries would be good for China.” I said.

“That is a strategy developed by the capitalist go-getters in the Party and is against the teachings of the great leader Chairman Mao.” The interrogator said.

“You can’t expect us outside the Party to know everything. For me personally and for my husband, the people’s government and the cadres who represent it are to be trusted and obeyed.” I said.