Chang Hsueh-liang, 101; General Abducted Chiang Kai-shek in 1936
Chang Hsueh-liang, a former military commander who played a historic role in the turbulent China of the 1930s, has died in Hawaii, China’s Xinhua News Agency said Monday. He was 101.
Chang died Sunday evening in a Honolulu hospital, Xinhua said, citing diplomats who had spoken to his family. It said Chinese diplomats from Los Angeles had also visited him in the hospital.
Taiwanese media also reported the death, saying Chang had had pneumonia.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin sent a message of condolence to Chang’s family, hailing him as a “great patriot,” Xinhua said. Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian also sent condolences.
Chang was a former military chief in northern China who in 1936 kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek, then China’s leader. Chiang was fighting Mao Tse-tung’s Communist guerrillas, but Chang wanted to force him into an alliance with them in hopes of repelling Japanese forces that were invading China.
After complex negotiations and a verbal offer from Chiang to review the situation, Chang freed the Chinese leader and ended his two-week coup.
Chiang’s Nationalists did later fight in a loose, short-lived “united front” with Communist forces against the Japanese.
However, Chang was court-martialed for insubordination and sentenced to prison. When Chiang and his government lost a civil war to the Communists and fled to Taiwan in 1949, they took Chang with them and kept him under house arrest.
Police guarded Chang’s hillside villa in a suburb of the Taiwanese capital, Taipei. He spent much of his time reading the Bible and doing historical research, and was regarded as a leading authority on China’s Ming period of the 14th to 17th centuries.
He didn’t gain full freedom until 1990, long after Chiang had died and three years after Taiwan ended martial law rule.
Chang and his wife, Edith Chao, left for Hawaii the following year. Chao died there last year.
Chang is survived by his son, Chang Lu-lin, 71, who lives in Honolulu.