113. Airgram A-925 From the Delegation to the United Nations to the Department of State, June 19, 19721 2

[Page 1]

TO: Department of State


DATE: June 19, 1972

SUBJECT: Death of PRC Mission Staff Member



Ambassador Bush called on Ambassador Huang Hua June 7 to report on the status of the Wang case. In a meeting that lasted for more than an hour, Ambassador Bush covered all aspects of the case, reporting that the investigation is at a standstill but that the case is still open. Ambassador Bush emphasized the sincerity of the United States’ concern over the death of Mr. Wang and the thoroughness of our effort to resolve the case. His presentation also reflected the investigators’ disappointment over the Chinese Mission’s denial of access to, and fingerprinting of, individual Chinese staffers. Ambassador Huang’s low-key response stressed continuing Chinese concern that such an episode occurred so soon after the Chinese delegation’s arrival in New York. He noted that the Chinese Mission had already explained their negative position on access to the Mission’s staff and asserted once more that the cause of the “murder” lies outside of the Mission. Huang seemed to accept that Bush’s report reflected the good faith of the United States Government’s effort but maintained a posture that effectively leaves the burden completely on the United States to come up with a solution.

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It appears that we have successfully passed through this stage of the case. Ambassador Huang’s reaction to the report, although firm, was not contentious and did not imply any Chinese plans that would exacerbate the situation. Before we can rule out further troublesome Chinese action, we will have to see what further instructions Peking, following receipt of Ambassador Huang’s report, gives the Chinese Mission here.

Report on Case

As anticipated reftel, Ambassador Bush called on Ambassador Huang Hua on June 7th to discuss the Wang case. Counselor Hsing and Mrs. Shih Yen-hua were present, as were USUN Advisers Joseph Glennon and Harry Thayer. The meeting lasted about one and one-quarter hours.

After a brief exchange regarding the Ambassadors’ plans to take leave this summer (with Ambassador Huang saying that he is “still waiting to hear” about his own plans), Ambassador Bush turned to the subject of the Wang case. He said that he wanted to bring Ambassador Huang up to date on a matter that has troubled the United States side, as it has troubled the Chinese. He said that to insure clarity he would read from a paper prepared in the United States Mission. He said he would be glad to have Mrs. Shih (notetaker and interpreter) interrupt at any point to clarify her notes.

Ambassador Bush, reading from the prepared notes, said that he very much regretted the death of Mr. Wang. This has been a sad episode in what we hope has otherwise been a relatively smooth move to New York. Ambassador Bush said he appreciated Ambassador Huang’s courtesy in having his staff inform us of the cremation of Mr. Wang’s body last Friday and of the fact that the ashes are being returned to Peking. Ambassador Bush said he understood from Dr. Helpern that Ambassador Huang was able to utilize the Medical Examiner’s assistance in the cremation and we are glad that the City Government was able to be helpful,

Ambassador Bush said that he personally has been kept fully informed regarding all developments in the case of Mr. Wang and that the White House, as well as the State Department, has also been kept abreast of all developments. [Page 3] The United States Government has been extremely concerned about Mr. Wang’s death and, therefore, we have made every possible effort to resolve the mystery. So far, however, we have been unsuccessful.

Ambassador Bush said that on Monday (June 5th) he had a final meeting with the head of the New York City Police investigation and his principal assistant, and with Dr. Halpern. Our Government has also called in other agencies to assist in the investigation, as Ambassador Huang is aware, and they have cooperated with the New York City Police, which has been the focal point for the investigation. The investigation is continuing and the case will remain open until it is solved.

At the Monday meeting, Ambassador Bush said, he had gone over all aspects of the case once again to satisfy himself personally that all available avenues of investigation were being explored. Ambassador Bush said that he is satisfied that all avenues have been explored and will continue to be explored: The police and other agencies have exhaustively sought to find a likely source of nicotine, have thoroughly investigated all hotel employees, have questioned persons in the hotel area, checking all sources of information or leads as to how the nicotine got to Mr. Wang’s room. Other agencies have made investigations elsewhere in the United States, as well as abroad.

Ambassador Bush said that when there had seemed to be a dead end to the investigation, Mr. Glennon had personally encouraged the police to explore other possibilities—such as various ways of using nicotine and sources for the substance—both here and abroad through channels that are available to the United States Government.

Ambassador Bush noted that one troubling aspect of the case has been the Flora Lewis article. Several agencies have also investigated this article’s origin and we believe we have resolved this aspect of the case. The article’s reference to the Chinese Mission was based on a fabrication by an acquaintance of Miss Lewis. We have checked out the acquaintance’s story and have satisfied ourselves that he had made up the story of the “plot” completely, and that the article indeed was based on a total fabrication. Ambassador Bush said he, himself, has found it hard to believe that the appearance of such a [Page 4] story only five days before Mr. Wang’s death was a mere coincidence but the facts now force him to accept this. These facts were arrived at by several agencies of both the New York and the Federal Governments.

Ambassador Bush said that overall, despite what he is satisfied has been our intensive investigative efforts, we have not turned up any productive leads to a resolution of the case. Intervention by the United States Mission and by Washington officials have insured that the investigation has been even more thorough than normal.

Although the investigation has been thorough, Ambassador Bush said he was obliged to add, however, that the Police, in the meeting on Monday, had again expressed to him their sincere regret, speaking as experienced professional investigators, that they were unable to fingerprint and discuss the case with all the individual members of the Chinese Mission.

Ambassador Bush said that we fully understand the Chinese reluctance to grant these Police requests. Ambassador Bush said that he and Ambassador Huang had been frank with each other, but that he regretted that they did not see eye to eye on this aspect of the case. However, the experience of investigators here has been that details, although often seemingly insignificant, turned up in the questioning of innocent associates of a deceased person often are helpful. Such questioning, although the Police, of course, cannot guarantee anything, might have provided leads back into the American community for example and this would have been of great help to the investigation and might have been in our mutual interests.

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Ambassador Bush said that the only way to sum up the situation is by saying that the case is at a standstill but is not closed, and that the Police will continue their investigation. Since the case is not resolved we would be grateful if Ambassador Huang would give us the benefit of any information that the Chinese side might acquire in the future and that might be useful to our investigators. He said that we would also appreciate receiving any word that the Chinese might have from Peking regarding the examination of the body tissues that the Chinese Mission had shipped back for examination. This matter had been particularly brought up in the Monday meeting. If there were some information or some discovery made in Peking, this might be useful in opening up new leads. Ambassador Bush told Ambassador Huang that he is grateful for the cooperation of the Chinese Mission in the handling of the press and for informing us before the release of the Chinese press statement. We have not had any recent inquiries and hope that this remains the case. Finally, Ambassador Bush said that he regrets that we are unable to give the Chinese conclusive answers regarding the case. He said, however, that he can assure Ambassador Huang that every effort has been, and will continue to be, made. Ambassador Bush said that he is sorry for Mr. Wang’s family and sorry that we have not been able to resolve the case. The foregoing remarks, Ambassador Bush said, concluded his oral report. He said he would be happy to discuss any aspect of the case.

Ambassador Huang’s Reaction

Ambassador Huang, who reflected for a full minute before speaking, said that he appreciated Ambassador Bush’s summary report regarding Mr. Wang’s death. He said that “we are disappointed that so far you have not been able to resolve the case. But of course we also take note of what you have said—that the case is still open and that the United States side will make every effort to resolve it. It remains our request that the United States side will continue to investigate and to resolve the case, and that the United States side will use every channel to do so.” Ambassador Huang, turning to Ambassador Bush’s remarks about the refusal to permit fingerprinting and questioning of individual members of the Chinese Mission, said simply: [Page 6] ”I have explained our position to you before. On this question I have no further explanation to make.”

Referring to Ambassador Bush’s request for any information on Peking’s examination of Mr. Wang’s tissues, Ambassador Huang said that he would let Ambassador Bush know if he receives any information from Peking.

Ambassador Huang then asked Mr. Hsing if he had anything to say. Mr. Hsing said he did not.

Ambassador Huang then resumed his comments, noting that Ambassador Bush had expressed the United States’ concern, and saying that “the Chinese Government also is very much concerned because this happened in the Chinese Mission to the United Nations and because it was caused by nicotine poisoning. This has caused us great concern. It is an unusual case. Whether considered from the point of view of the security of the Chinese Mission or from the point of view of the responsibility of the United States Government towards other missions, it is necessary for both of us to have the case resolved.

“We hope (Ambassador Huang continued) that we can finally resolve this case. We hope that the United States side will continue to exert every effort to resolve it. On this matter, we will not look into the details of the United States’ efforts, because that is the concern of the United States side.”


Ambassador Bush confirmed that we will continue to seek to resolve it, although there are no leads at this time, It is in the interests of the United States Government, as well as that of the Chinese Government. In response to Ambassador Bush’s indication that he would regret that any such incident might be detrimental to relations between the two countries or to the operations of the Chinese Mission, Ambassador Huang said that this case is very peculiar and “possibly very serious—more so than cases of other missions.” He asked if we were aware of any other similar cases and Ambassador Bush said we were unaware of any cases of just this nature. Ambassador Huang [Page 7] continued by saying that it was the nature of this case, not the individual involved that “implies a very serious attempt to sabotage, to undermine the work of the Chinese Mission and the relations between China and the United States. Since this is such an unusual case, it should cause the United States to give serious attention to it.”

Ambassador Bush replied that the concern expressed by Ambassador Huang about possible political motives had caused us concern as well. He said that both the Police and Dr. Helpern had concluded that if a person wanted to cause friction between the two governments, he would not have used this kind of a method to take an individual’s life. The presence of nicotine in the body would normally not have been detected. The theory of the Police and Dr. Helpern is that if somebody had wanted to disrupt relations for political purposes, nicotine would not have been used because it would have been known that nicotine normally would not have been turned up in the autopsy or chemical analysis. Ambassador Bush said that he was “not prejudging” the matter but simply wanted to report that the experts feel that nicotine was unlikely to have been chosen as a method for a political murder. Ambassador Huang interjected that the points just made by Ambassador Bush reflected “just one kind of consideration.” Ambassador Bush went on to say that that was the only thing that Dr. Helpern and the Police said on that point. He stressed again that we are not closing the door on the political murder possibility. The experts’ comments showed merely their judgment “on methodology.”

Ambassador Huang said that “most important is that in the Chinese Mission in New York there was such an incident of poison death.” Just as Ambassador Bush had constantly expressed the concern felt by the United States side, the incident itself will “most likely cause concern in various quarters. This could be used to further create public opinion to effect the work of the Chinese Mission here and this will also effect our relations with the United States side. We believe, therefore, that it is also in the interests of the United States side to investigate and resolve this very grave incident.”

Ambassador Huang then invited Counselor Hsing to comment. Hsing said that Dr. Helpern once told the Chinese side that [Page 8] there had been such cases wherein nicotine was used to end a man’s life. When Dr. Helpern had reached his preliminary conclusions on the cause of Mr. Wang’s death, the Medical Examiner had let Hsing see samples of nicotine (presumably those found in fluids and tea leaves in Mr. Wang’s room). Hsing said that, therefore, it is “not totally impossible to detect nicotine as the cause of Mr. Wang’s death.”

Ambassador Bush noted again that a murderer with political motivations would have wanted to have the cause of death detected. Indeed, people have died before from nicotine and nicotine can be traced but if the motivation for murder were political, which would include a desire to have the death known to have been caused by murder, this purpose might not have been achieved because nicotine ordinarily would escape detection. Mr. Glennon added that he understood there had been one case where nicotine had been used in a suicide. Hsing responded that the sudden death of a member of the Chinese Mission, shortly after the Mission’s arrival in New York, presents a “serious question” which leads others to raise questions. Ambassador Bush said that he wanted to reiterate that the United States Government shares the Chinese concern: “there is no difference between us on this.”

Ambassador Huang, referring to Mr. Glennon’s statement about use of nicotine for suicide, said the Chinese side had also heard from U.S. detectives about such incidents. He said that “we made it clear that we ruled out the possibility of suicide; we completely ruled it out. We not only knew Mr. Wang very well, but we also know other members of the Mission very well.” Hsing added that the Chinese, in the course of the medical examination and after the autopsy, had asked Dr. Helpern for further analysis. Dr. Helpern also felt it to be unusual for such a young man to have had such a sudden death. That is why Dr. Helpern continued his analysis until he was able to conclude that nicotine was the cause, Hsing said.

Ambassador Bush said he was totally in accord with the remarks made by the Chinese side. Dr. Helpern had told us that he is “mystified,” as to the origin of the nicotine, and he wishes he could have been of more help. Ambassador Bush said again that he agreed with Mr. Hsing’s comments. Hsing said that “no matter what measures one takes to end a man’s life, his political purpose can be achieved. So, in other words, just because a certain method is used, it cannot be said that the political [Page 9] purpose could not be achieved.” Ambassador Bush said that he had simply been conveying Dr. Helpern’s judgment. He said that “I make no conclusions because we have made no final judgment.”

Ambassador Huang told Ambassador Bush that he had no more comments to make about the case. Ambassador Bush replied that he had made his report with regret but with satisfaction that all available facts had been presented to the Chinese. He added that both he, himself, in a personal capacity and the United States Government feel’ a desire to do everything possible and feel a deep responsibility regarding the case. He said that he had nothing further to report at this time.

Ambassador Huang concluded the discussion of Mr. Wang’s death by saying that his Mission would convey to his Government the facts reported by Ambassador Bush.

Ambassador Bush, after a brief exchange on plans to attend the ECOSOC meeting and on host country concerns about general security of foreign missions in New York, asked if there had been any threats or any other security matters about which the Chinese Mission was concerned. Ambassador Huang, seconded by Hsing, said that there were no other such concerns; that “everything is very good.”


The meeting throughout was conducted in a low-key and serious manner. As in previous meetings between the two Ambassadors, Ambassador Huang did not use Mrs. Shih to interpret small talk. On substance, however, Ambassador Huang, as on previous occasions, spoke in Chinese only, in a very low voice, directed to Mrs. Shih. While listening carefully to Ambassador Bush’s remarks in English, Ambassador Huang consistently waited to hear Mrs. Shih’s interpretation before showing any reaction whatsoever.

The Chinese continued to maintain their forward position: insisting on the likelihood of political murder, offering no assistance in proving this, and refusing to consider further police access to PRC Mission personnel. Nevertheless, they did not, either directly or by implication, indicate suspicion [Page 10] that the United States was not doing its best to resolve the case. Doubtless, the investigators’ original emphasis on the possibility that Mr. Wang was taking nicotine for medicinal purposes and newspaper statements that the police had suspended their investigation have led the Chinese Mission to doubt the continuing vigor of the United States’ effort. However, the Chinese at this meeting in no way indicated that they harbor such doubt. From this point of view, we believe that we have passed through this stage of the case with less damage than we might have expected.

We will continue to monitor—and, where appropriate, stimulate—the Police investigation, but we have no basis now for expecting that the case will be resolved.

It seems unlikely that Ambassador Huang or his staff will raise this case again with us in the immediate future unless Peking’s reaction to the report given by Ambassador Bush is stronger than that apparently felt personally by Ambassador Huang. We will have to be prepared, nevertheless, to demonstrate to the Chinese, after the passage of a few months, that the Police are continuing to do what they can to solve the case.

It remains an open question as to whether or not the Chinese know more about the origin of the nicotine ingested by Mr. Wang than they are telling us. However, from the way they have handled the case, despite our earlier concern that they were preparing to use the death against us in some fashion, we now believe that this is unlikely.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 17 CHICOM-US. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Harry E. T. Thayer on June 8 and cleared by Joseph Glennon and Bush. Received at the Department of State on June 21.
  2. Ambassador to the United Nations Bush recounted that he had informed Chinese Ambassador to the UN Huang Hua that he was personally satisfied that the New York Police Department had explored all angles of the death of the Chinese delegate and had been assured that the case would remain open.