Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Shi Pei Pu

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Shi Pei Pu - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

A Chinese opera singer from Beijing. Shi Pei Pu became a spy who obtained secrets from Bernard Boursicot, an employee in the French embassy, during a 20-year-long sexual affair in which the performer convinced the man that he was a woman.

Bernard Boursicot was 20 years old when he obtained a job as an accountant at the French embassy in Beijing, in 1964. He first met Shi, then 26 years old, at a Christmas party in December 1964, at the embassy, where Shi had been teaching Chinese to families of workers. Shi convinced Boursicot that he was a woman and the two quickly developed a sexual relationship, maintained in darkness. After being discovered by the Chinese government, Boursicot was pressured into providing more than 500 secret documents from his postings in Beijing from 1969 to 1972 and in Ulan Bator, Mongolia from 1977 to 1979.

In the early 1980s, Shi claimed to have had a child that he insisted had been born through their relations. Consequently, Shi and his, actually adopted, son were brought to Paris in 1982, after Boursicot was able to arrange for them to enter France.
A year later, on June 30, 1983, Boursicot and Shi were arrested by French authorities. In police custody, Shi explained to doctors how he had hidden his genitals to convince Boursicot that he was a woman. He said that Shi Du Du, their purported son, had been bought from a doctor in the Xinjiang province of China. Upon discovering the truth of their relationship, Boursicot attempted suicide but survived. The public disclosure of the affair made headlines in France and Boursicot the subject of widespread ridicule.
In 1986, Shi and Boursicot were each convicted of espionage and sentenced to six years in prison. Shi was pardoned by President of France François Mitterrand April 10, 1987, as part of an effort to defuse tensions between France and China. Boursicot was pardoned in August of that year too.

The affair inspired David Henry Hwang’s 1988 play M. Butterfly and a drama film directed by David Cronenberg in 1993.

Shi Pei Pu - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program
Shi Pei Pu - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program
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