Peking has confirmed that Mao Tse-tung's second wife, divorced in the late 1930s and not heard from since is still alive and has returned to public life.

The official New China News Agency said He Zizhen (Ho Tzu-chen) was elected to the Chinese people's political consultative conference, the country's united front organization. Madam He was divorced by Communist Party Chairman Mao so that he could marry Jiang Qing (Chiang Ching), who is now in detention for attempting to take over the government after Mao's death in 1976.

Madam He reportedly was forced to abandon at least two of her children with peasants during the communists' Long March of 1935 and never saw them again. Her health reportedly broke down and she went to Soviet Union for medical treatment. More recent reports suggest that she was either dead or in a mental hospital.

The news agency announcement highlighted several veteran communists formerly in political disgrace who had been among 109 new members elected to the consultative conference. Others included Ding Ling, a well-know writer purged in the late 1950s and Wang Guang Mei, widow of purged Chinese president Liu Shao-chi. The news agency did not refer to Madam He as Mao's former wife, describing her simply as a "veteran Communist Party member and partcipant in the famous Long March."

Also on the list of new members was Luo Zhang-long, 82, one of Mao's major political opponents who was purged in 1931 as a rightist and for years was thought to have been dead.