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Chinese spy disguised as a woman throughout 20-year-long affair with French diplomat who stole intelligence

Chinese spy disguised as a woman throughout 20-year-long affair with French diplomat who stole intelligence

The story went on to inspire a Broadway show.

A Chinese opera singer masqueraded as a woman and kept up a relationship with a French embassy employee for nearly 20 years in which both had acted as spies.

During his time teaching Chinese to families of employees of the French embassy in Beijing, playwright, actor and singer Shi Pei Pu met accountant Bernard Boursicot in 1964.

Shi told the accountant he'd been forced to dress like a man and brought up as one at his parents wishes, but was really a female Beijing opera singer and the pair then embarked on a romantic - and sexual - relationship for almost two decades.

Shi was able to convinced Boursicot he was a woman by retracting his testicles into his body and manipulating his penis and according to The New York Times, telling the accountant he was forced to take hormones too.

Boursicot had also never had sex with a woman before, only sexual relationships with other boys when he was at school.

In December 1965, Shi told Boursicot that he was pregnant just before the accountant was set to leave China. Shi had really adopted a child from a doctor in Xinjiang.

Boursicot had to leave anyway and upon his return to Beijing four years later as an archivist of the French embassy, the Cultural Revolution - also known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution - was well underway.

At Shi's house, Boursicot met two Chinese men who he ended up sharing and allowing to copy highly confidential documents containing information about the French embassy in Moscow and Washington - the Cold War going on at the time - South China Morning Post reporting that Boursicot was pressured by the Chinese government to do so after they discovered his affair with Shi.

Shi told Boursicot their alleged son - named Shi Du Du or as Boursicot called him 'Bertrand' - had been sent away to somewhere near the Russian border for his safety.

Boursicot reportedly supplied information to the men all the way until he left his position at the French embassy in 1972 and supplied further information to the Chinese from 1977 when he got a position in the capital of Mongolia, Ulan Bator.


Shi and Boursicot continued their relationship over the long-distance - which also limited their sexual contact - and eventually Bouriscot went back to France in 1979, Shi and the pair's 'son' joining three years later.

In 1983, French government agency the Direction de la Surveillance du territoire realised Shi and Boursicot were living together and caught wind of them having supplied French documents to China's government.

Both were arrested for spying on France for China.

Shi claimed he knew nothing about the documents and claimed he'd 'never told Bernard' he was a woman, 'only let it be understood that [he] could be a woman' - his sex as a man was revealed to Boursicot allegedly for the first time when he was inspected by doctors.

Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu.

Shi and Bouriscot were both found guilty of spying in 1986 and sentenced to six years in prison each, although in 1987, they were both pardoned.

Shi lived in Paris with his adopted son and carried on his career as an opera singer before passing away in 2009 and Bouriscot is reportedly in a nursing home.

When told Shi had passed away, Bouriscot reportedly told The New York Times: "He did so many things against me that he had no pity for, I think it is stupid to play another game now and say I am sad. The plate is clean now. I am free."

Their story also inspired the Broadway show M.Butterfly.

Featured Image Credit: Public Domain / France Télévisions

Topics: World News, China, Music, Politics