Rumors have been spreading online that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) are long-time members of the “underground” Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Other secret members allegedly include the “three Leungs” — former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英), former Hong Kong secretary of justice Elsie Leung (梁愛詩) and former Hong Kong secretary of financial affairs Anthony Leung (梁錦松).

While the rumors cannot be verified, if true, it would mean that the CCP — the world’s largest political party with nearly 100 million members — is on a mission to bring the world under its thumb through its shadowy membership outside of China.

Leung Chun-ying’s membership was alleged by Jin Yaoru (金堯如), a former editor-in-chief of the CCP’s Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, who said he heard it from former director of the Hong Kong branch of Xinhua news agency and secretary of the Hong Kong-Macau Working Committee Xu Jiatun (許家屯), who had fled to the US.

The membership of Elsie Leung was claimed almost 30 years ago by Huang Miaozi (黃苗子), a renowned Chinese calligrapher and her maternal uncle.

The membership of Anthony Leung was, it is claimed, proved by his marriage to Fu Mingxia (伏明霞), a Chinese Olympic diving gold medalist. Were Anthony Leung not a member, his marriage to Fu would not have been permitted by Beijing.

He did not deny the rumor.

Before marrying Fu, he was in banking. He was a chief officer for Citigroup in Hong Kong.

A photograph taken in 1979 shows Lam, then deputy head of an exchange group, visiting Beijing’s Tsinghua University as a University of Hong Kong’s student union member. She is shown standing next to Yuan Yongxi (袁永熙), nicknamed the “old leader,” who served as CCP secretary during the Chinese Civil War.

Yuan was the son-in-law of Chen Bulei (陳布雷), wordsmith of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Control Yuan member Chen Shih-meng’s (陳師孟) paternal uncle-in-law.

The “underground party” was formed when the CCP launched subversion operations in areas of China that were ruled by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime. After 1949, members — who continued to hide their political affiliation — filled almost every position as leaders of religious groups or democratic organizations that the CCP considered to be enemy groups.

After Hong Kong was handed over to China by the UK in 1997, the CCP continued to engage in underground activities, showing that it also views Hong Kongers as an enemy that must be subverted.

Hong Kong protesters wear masks to prevent persecution by Beijing, but underground party members hide their true identity to make a move when their target is defenseless, either forcefully recruiting or attacking them.

This is what makes the underground CCP horrifying. Nobody knows how many members are in Taiwan or Hong Kong, but they were almost certainly recruited during exchanges with China. The recruitment takes place either in China or locally, and could be done directly or indirectly.

The late Li Chuwen (李儲文), who was a pastor at Shanghai Community Church, was a senior underground member. His identity was exposed during the Cultural Revolution. Li later served as deputy director of Xinhua and deputy secretary of the Hong Kong-Macau Working Committee.

The Reverend Peter Koon (管浩鳴), who promotes Hong Kong murder suspect Chan Tong-kai’s (陳同佳) “surrender” to Taiwanese authorities, is probably a member, too.