US committee on China calls for probe into VulgarWiki torture allegations

Family members say Niu Tengyu and other young people were framed to protect someone with friends in high places.
By Yitong Wu and Chingman
US committee on China calls for probe into VulgarWiki torture allegations Niu Tengyu, jailed for 14 years for discussing personal details of Chinese President Xi Jinping's family online, is shown in an undated photo.
Photo provided by Niu Tengyu's family

Politicians in the U.S. are calling for an investigation into claims of torture against a man jailed after someone posted a photo of ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping's daughter to a website he ran.

"Former website administrator Niu Tengyu "was reportedly severely tortured and sentenced to 14 years in prison during a crackdown on people related to the websites [VulgarWiki] #EsuWiki and ZhinaWiki, which published information of relatives of #XiJinping," the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) said via its Twitter account, naming Niu under the hashtag #OlympicPrisoner.

"Credible torture claims must be investigated," it said.

Niu, was jailed in the southern province of Guangdong after someone posted a photo of Xi Mingze to meme site ZhinaWiki, an act that was later blamed by police on Niu's VulgarWiki.

He is currently serving his sentence at Yangjiang Prison.

Niu's attorneys Bao Longjun and Wang Yu filed an official complaint over torture Niu suffered while in police detention in October 2019 that resulted in injury to his right hand.

Bao told RFA's Cantonese Service in March 2020 that Niu had also been stripped, suspended from the ceiling, and his genitals burned with a lighter.

Niu's mother Coco welcomed the CECC's focus on her son's case.

"This shows the international community cares about my son's case," she said. "I will continue to appeal as far as I can according to the law."

"I once again call on CCP general secretary Xi Jinping to urge the relevant departments to correct this wrongful conviction, release my son and maintain China's international image regarding the rule of law," she said.

'Indelible psychological shadow'

The father of another young man detained in the same case, Zhang Qinrui, told RFA that his son had also been severely mistreated by the authorities.

"My son was transferred to the Foshan Detention Center for anonymous detention, where he was given a code, and not allowed to meet with a lawyer," Zhang's father said. "He wasn't allowed to communicate with anyone, and his glasses were taken away, leaving him very short-sighted."

"He was prevented from wearing warm clothing in winter, prevented by his cell-mates from eating, and the detention center did nothing when he reported it," he said. "This went on for more than three months and has left an indelible psychological shadow on him that will last the rest of his life."

"Do our kids have any human rights?" he said.

Zhang's father said he believed all of the young people in the case were framed, and demanded immediate acquittal of all charges.

"When the Maoming police came to our home to arrest my son, they said this case had been designated by the ministry of public security [in Beijing] and that my child was a traitor who had smeared the image of our national leader on the internet," Zhang's father said. "There was no paperwork when they took him away."

"After the dust settled a bit, I discovered that actually nothing of the kind had happened. It was obvious persecution," he said. "Zhang Qinrui did not participate in any illegal activity."

"They wanted him to take the fall for Song Wanglin, who has a strong CCP background," he said, adding that top CCP officials had dictated to the court how the case should be handled from the outset.

Another young person connected to Vulgar Wiki, Gu Yangyang, was apparently released, also because he had high-ranking connections in Shanghai, Niu's mother has said in earlier interviews.

Zhang, who is now 24, was handed a five-year jail term for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," and "violating citizens' right to privacy," and designated a member of a "criminal gang."

23 detainees mistreated

Niu was sentenced on Dec. 30, 2020 by the Maonan District People's Court in Guangdong's Maoming city, which found him guilty of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," "violating others' privacy" and "running an illegal business."

Reports at the time indicated that 23 young people detained around the same time in connection with the Vulgar Wiki case had also been tortured and mistreated in detention.

Sources told RFA that the parents of the other young detainees were told there was no record of them at the detention center when they went to put money into their prison spending accounts.

The records were restored following a protest by parents outside the Guangdong Detention Center.

A ZhinaWiki editor, who gave only the pseudonym Mr. L, said he was the person who posted personal information relating to the Xi family.

"Throughout this investigation, all of the official records of the case, including the verdict, all admit that ZhinaWiki was responsible for posting [details about Xi's family], but they still refuse to admit that this has been a miscarriage of justice," he said.

"We will continue to expose the secret dealings between Gu Yangyang, Song Wanglin, the Guangdong police and the state security police in Beijing, as well as other instances of police corruption and perversion of the course of justice."

The Maoming People's Court rejected Niu's appeal behind closed doors on April 23, 2021.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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