Chairman Mao’s right-hand man, the much-respected first premier Zhou Enlai, was probably gay despite his long marriage according to a new book which is set to be published in Hong Kong.
A Hong Kong-based author named Tsoi Wing-mui, former editor at a liberal political magazine who has previously written about gay-themed topics, makes the assertions in her forthcoming book The Secret Emotional Life of Zhou Enlai.
According to Reuters, who obtained excerpts of the Chinese-language book, Tsoi draws her conclusion on the basis of letters and diaries written by Zhou and his wife which detail Zhou’s fondness for a schoolmate and detachment from his wife.
The assertion is sure to be controversial in China, where homosexuality is not widely accepted and likely to be viewed as an attack on Zhou’s character. The book has already been banned from mainland China.
“Before writing this book, I really didn’t have a good impression of Zhou Enlai,” said Tsoi in an interview. “But afterward, I have a lot of sympathy for him.” She writes in her book that “Zhou Enlai was a gay politician who had the misfortune of being born 100 years early.”
Gao Wenqian, a US-based biographer of Zhou, said he was aware of speculation about Zhou’s sexuality, but it was hard to say for certain if it was true. “There’s actually not that much information about it in the records,” Gao said. “There’s no way to be sure.”
The State Council Information Office, or cabinet spokesman’s office, did not respond to requests for comment. The Communist Party History Research Office, reached by telephone, declined to comment.
The book says Zhou was most fond of Li Fujing, a schoolmate two years his junior.
Zhou wrote in his diary that he could not live one day without Li, the author says in the book, and being with Li can “turn sorrow into joy”.
Zhou and Li shared a dormitory from 1917 and “even their shadows do not part”, she wrote. Li died in 1960.
Zhou married Deng Yingchao in 1925. They had no children of their own.
There were “no romantic feelings” and it was a “marriage in name only … He was never in love with his wife,” Tsoi wrote.
Deng, who was chairwoman of a high profile but largely ceremonial advisory body to parliament from 1983-88, died in 1992.
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