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In his earlier life worked at Nanyang Tobacco Factory, where he became an active participant of workers' movement, then of the Shanghai Trade Union and finally of the CPC. In 1926 Gu was sent to the Soviet Union (Vladivostok) for training as a spy; after his return he participated thrice in the armed uprisings in Shanghai.
In 1927, after the 12 April Incident, he became an active member of the underground communist movement together with Zhou Enlai, held numerous posts and finally became the Head of the Chinese Politburo's security service. Known as a magician, in fact he personally participated in physical extermination of the CPC betrayers and thus became famous as a party activist.
On 24 April 1931, while giving a performance in Wuhan (P.Short: he was assigned to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek), Gu was identified from a photograph by the GMD special service. After the arrest he was persuaded to defect, thus causing the execution of several thousand communists over the next three months (according to the estimation of the French intelligence bureau in Shanghai). Among those shot was Xiang Zhongfa, the General Secretary of CPC.
As retribution, members of his family were killed, allegedly on the order of Zhou Enlai.
In the following years Gu was an effective coach of the Nanjing intelligence service, secretly organized a "New Communist Party" in 1934, and was ordered shot by Chiang. The execution took place in Suzhou in December 1934 (June 1935?).