Chen Tanqiu

Name in Chinese
Name in Wade-Giles
Ch'en T'an-ch'iu
Related People

Biography in English

Ch'en T'an-ch'iu 陳潭秋 Ch'en T'an-ch'iu (1889 - 27 September 1943) helped to establish the Communist nucleus in Wuhan (1920) and organized the Hupeh branch of the Chinese Communist party. He became the senior Chinese Communist official in Sinkiang in 1939. Sheng Shih-ts'ai (q.v.) had him arrested (1942) and executed (1943). Little is known of the first 30 years of Ch'en T'an-ch'iu's life except that he was born in Hupeh. He was reportedly a member of the T'ung-meng-hui in Hupeh, and he supported Sun Yat-sen's cause after 1911.

In late 1920 Li Han-chun (q.v.), representing Ch'en Tu-hsiu (q.v.) and the Shanghai Communist nucleus, went to Wuhan to talk with Tung Pi-wu (q.v.) and other intellectuals. Ch'en T'an-ch'iu was a member of that group. With the assistance of Gregory Voitinsky's secretary, Ch'en and Tung Pi-wu formed a Communist group at Wuhan in the winter of 1920-21. Similar groups were organized about the same time by Li Ta-chao at Peking and by Mao Tse-tung at Changsha. The various nuclei were brought together at the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which met at Shanghai in July 1921. Ch'en T'an-ch'iu and Tung Pi-wu represented Wuhan at the congress. In his "Reminiscences of the First Congress of the Communist Party of China," written under the name Chen Pan-tsu, Ch'en T'an-ch'iu provided one of the few available accounts of that historic gathering; the article appeared in the New York edition of the Communist International in October 1936. After the First Congress, Ch'en returned to Hupeh where, with Tung Pi-wu and a few other comrades, he established the Hupeh branch of the Chinese Communist party and began the arduous work of building an organizational structure. Hupeh was an area of major importance to the Communists. One of the most intensively cultivated areas of central China, it was also one of the leading industrial provinces of the country. Its mines produced iron and coal; the Wuhan area was one of the few centers of heavy industry in China; and the province controlled a key section of the railroad line linking Hankow with Peking in the north. Because some of the early Communists in Hupeh during the 1920's, notably Ch'en T'an-ch'iu and Tung Pi-wu, were scholars and educators, they were able to bring some of their former students into the movement. Cadres were sent into the countryside, and by 1924 an organizational network had been established in the Hupeh- Honan-Anhwei area. Beginning in 1925, peasant associations and peasant self-defense corps were organized in northeastern Hupeh. These forces worked to prepare the way for the National Revolutionary Army as it approached from the south through Hunan during 1926, and they contributed to the Nationalist victory over the forces of Wu P'ei-fu (q.v.). In the post-1927 period, these forces formed the nuclei of the Communist-organized guerrilla bands which fought Nationalist authority in that area. After the collapse of the Kuomintang-Communist alliance in 1927, Ch'en T'an-ch'iu, like all other Communists in China, became a hunted man. He hid in Shanghai, reportedly serving as head of the underground organization department of the party's central apparatus. He was elected in absentia to the Chinese Communist party's Central Committee at the Sixth Congress, which was held in Moscow in the summer of 1928. As Kuomintang controls tightened in Shanghai, Ch'en T'an-ch'iu was forced to flee to the Chinese Communist base in southern Kiangsi. There he served as minister of food in the government of the so-called Chinese soviet republic established at Juichin in November 1931. Ch'en's wife, Hsu Ch'ien-chih, remained behind in Shanghai; later, she was arrested and executed at Nanking.

Later, possibly in the final military actions of 1934 before the Communists undertook their Long March, Ch'en received a head wound and was sent to the Soviet Union for medical treatment. Reports state that he studied in the Soviet Union, and the available evidence suggests that the references must be to this period in the mid-1930's. Ch'en's residence in Moscow may also be inferred from his 1936 article in the Communist International.

In 1939 Ch'en T'an-ch'iu left the Soviet Union to return to the Chinese Communist wartime capital at Yenan. When he arrived in Sinkiang, the top command at Yenan instructed him to halt his journey at Urumchi to replace Teng Fa (q.v.) as the senior Chinese Communist official in Sinkiang. Ch'en T'an-ch'iu, using the alias Hsu Ghieh, thus became the Urumchi representative of the (Communist) Eighth Route Army and of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist party, the dual position previously held by Teng Fa. Among the Communist cadres then working in Sinkiang under him were Mao Tse-min (q.v.), the younger brother of Mao Tse-tung, and Lin Chi-lu, then dean of Sinkiang College.

In early 1942, military developments on the European front caused Sheng Shih-ts'ai (q.v.) to question the desirability of maintaining his close alignment with the Soviet Union. Because he doubted Sheng's political reliability, Ch'en T'an-ch'iu, acting on instructions from Yenan, requested that the Chinese Communists cadres in the province be permitted to return to Yenan. Sheng refused. Ch'en then asked that they be permitted to go to Moscow. Sheng rejected the request and placed the entire group under house arrest. Ch'en T'an-ch'iu, Mao Tse-min, and Lin Chi-lu later were imprisoned on charges that they had planned to stage large-scale disorders as part of an international Communist plot to overthrow Sheng Shih-ts'ai's regime in Sinkiang. The alleged conspiracy was publicly announced in December 1942 (by which time Sheng Shihts'ai had made a deal with Chungking), but the details of Sheng's treatment of the imprisoned Chinese Communists remained obscure. In the autumn of 1963 Peking published its official version of the events in Sinkiang. According to this account, Ch'en T'an-ch'iu and virtually all Chinese Communists in Sinkiang were arrested in the autumn of 1942. Ch'en T'an-ch'iu was interrogated for more than 70 days and was tortured. Ch'en, Mao Tse-min, and Lin Chi-lu were executed on 27 September 1943. Some accounts say that Ch'en first was subjected to slow suffocation with wet joss paper and then was strangled with a cord. In the spring of 1945, when the Chinese Communist party convened its Seventh National Congress at Yenan, the party leaders did not know of this execution, although they were certainly aware of the arrest and disappearance of the cadres in Sinkiang. Ch'en T'an-ch'iu was elected to membership on the Central Committee of the party in June 1945. It seems certain that Yenan had definite confirmation of the deaths by 1946, however. As a result of the peace talks held between the Nationalist authorities in jSinkiang represented by Chang Chih-chung (q.v.) and the Hi rebels, the Communist prisoners in Sinkiang who had not been executed were released and repatriated to Yenan in 1946, arriving there in August. They must have been fully aware of the fate of Ch'en T'an-ch'iu, Mao Tse-min, and the others, but by that time the matter was of historical interest only. The Peking Peoples Daily first announced Ch'en's death in January 1 950. However, a full account did not become available until the publication of an authoritative article by Saifudin (q.v.) published at Peking in September 1963 to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the death of Ch'en T'an-ch'iu and his associates.

Biography in Chinese

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