Man Jailed Over Photo of Chinese Leader's Daughter Gets Family Visit

Niu Tengyu's mother says he seems unable to move two of the fingers on his right hand following a complaint about torture in detention.
2021-05-06
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Man Jailed Over Photo of Chinese Leader's Daughter Gets Family Visit Niu Tengyu, jailed for 14 years for discussing personal details of Chinese President Xi Jinping's family online, is shown in an undated photo.
Niu Tengyu family

The family of Guangdong-based website user Niu Tengyu, who is currently serving a 14-year jail term for allegedly posting a photo of the daughter of ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping, say he has been injured in detention.

Niu, 22, was jailed in the southern province of Guangdong after someone posted a photo of Xi Mingze to meme site Zhina Wiki, an act that was later blamed by police on Niu's Vulgar Wiki.

His mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said she had visited him at the Maoming No. 1 Detention Center on Monday, their first meeting since his detention in August 2019.

The half-hour meeting was closely monitored by prison guards, she told RFA on Wednesday.

"When I saw my son yesterday, he was all smiles, but holding back tears," she said.

"You have to take care of yourself, Mom," he told me. "Try not to worry too much about me."

She said Niu had been framed, and incorrectly accused of uploading the photo.

"This is an injustice, and he is the fall guy, particularly now that the appeal didn't overturn [the sentence]," Niu's mother said.

She added: "He was very pale, with no color in his face at all," she said. "When he was home, he had a rosy complexion, and he was in very good health."

"He didn't show signs of mental breakdown, but was very lucid, and kept trying to comfort me," she said.

However, Niu was unable to hide the fact that he was unable to use at least two of the fingers on his right hand, she said.

Niu's rights attorneys, Bao Longjun and Wang Yu, were recently detained after they filed a complaint over torture Niu had suffered while in police detention.

During his detention over a 45-day period in October 2019, the complaint says, police beat Niu several times, resulting in injuries and nerve damage to his right hand, which has never recovered.

Bao told RFA's Cantonese Service on March 5 that the lawyers were filing a complaint with the authorities in Guangzhou about their client's treatment, which also included allegations that he had been stripped, suspended from the ceiling and his genitals burned with a lighter.

After months in detention, Niu Tengyu was handed a 14-year jail term 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.

An overseas-based editor of Zhina Wiki, who gave only a nickname, Mr. L, admitted to RFA on March 5 that he was responsible for posting Xi Mingze's photo, calling the case against Niu and the others "a huge miscarriage of justice."

Bao, who recently lodged an unsuccessful legal appeal against Niu's sentence and verdict, said the case was riddled with violations of legal procedure, and that the appeal was denied without a court hearing.

He said he is no longer technically Niu's attorney, as his instructions ended when the appeal was rejected.

He said the authorities are putting pressure on Niu and his family not to hire another lawyer, or to renew his instruction.

"It was very clear from this visit [from Niu's mother] that the detention center is under pressure from higher up," Bao told RFA.

"Niu Tengyu is being prevented, under duress, from handing over any written documents or signatures to his mother," he said. "That makes it very difficult for us to get involved."

Another young person connected to Vulgar Wiki, Gu Yangyang, was apparently released owing to high-ranking connections in Shanghai, Niu's mother said.

"Gu Yangyang’s mother can really call the shots in Shanghai," she said. "They are very powerful people, so ordinary people have no way to even reach them."

Reported by Yitong Wu and Chingman for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Jia Ao for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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