A SPY STORY: A Mysterious Cold War Death

I recently discovered—during one of those browses on the Internet that turns up up a silver nugget—a snippet of a documentary about a confrontation between the Dutch and the Chinese during the summer of 1966.

The extract of documentary reports on, and reconstructs, a sinister episode that took place in The Hague, on July 16th, during which a Chinese “welder” was found wounded on the sidewalk of the third secretary of the Chinese diplomatic legation.   The ensuing events—the severely wounded man was later kidnapped from the hospital where he’d been rushed by the Dutch for treatment, and whisked to the home of the Chinese chargé d’affaires, where he died—turned into a months-long stand-off between the Dutch security police and the Chinese.  It was never clear whether Hsu Tzu-tsai had accidentally fallen from an upper story window, had met with foul play, or, whether, as the Chinese maintained, Hsu had been incited by “U.S. secret agents” to defect, and fallen from the building while trying to sneak away.

My father’s job as a covert CIA operative in The Hague was to serve as liaison to the Dutch intelligence service, and his portfolio included work with potential defectors.  What his precise involvement in this tragedy and hot-point in East-West affairs might have been, I can’t know, but I ponder the episode in my book about my covert operative father, Born Under an Assumed Name.   The short documentary-extract is, in any case, a fascinating lens into a moment—one of so many—in the Cold War.  Here is the link:


Originally posted Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

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