Hundreds of Chinese activists overseas have called for the release of Niu Tengyu, jailed for allegedly posting a photo of the daughter of ruling Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, who they say has been ‘tortured to the point of mental disorder.’
Niu, who is currently serving a 14-year jail term for alleged involvement in the doxxing of Xi’s daughter Xi Mingze, has been tortured during his detention, according to his family, while his case was taken up by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China in 2022.
In an open letter posted to the X account of activist Jie Lijian, the activists said Niu’s mother reported during a Nov. 24 video call with her son in prison that he appears to have suffered either brain damage or a psychological breakdown.
“Niu Tengyu didn’t even recognize his own mother,” the letter said. “His eyes were dull, and he was yelling and talking nonsense.”
The issues appeared to have been brought on by forcible administration of unknown medicines, the letter said.
“It has been confirmed that an unidentified inmate was instructed by state security police to put an unknown drug into [Niu’s] drinking water,” it said.
“We call on the Chinese Communist Party authorities … to release Niu Tengyu and all of the other victims in this case immediately, and hold those who framed them to account,” said the letter, which was signed by hundreds of high-profile Chinese dissidents, including former 1989 student leader Wang Dan.
After the call, Niu’s mother Coco, who has said repeatedly that her son was the fall guy in a high-profile case that saw orders come down from Beijing for immediate arrests, traveled to Guangdong’s Sihui Prison to talk to prison authorities.
When she arrived, she found several vehicles parked inside, with special police and armed police patrolling the area.
“These commercial vehicles were full of police officers, and there was also a vehicle filled with special police who came with loaded guns and ammunition to threaten me,” she told Radio Free Asia in an interview on Dec. 7.
Coco met with the deputy warden, but wasn’t allowed to see Niu face to face.
She said prison officials had been inconsistent in their claims about Niu’s well-being.
“One minute they were saying that Niu’s mental state was fine, but then when they refused me [a face-to-face meeting], they said I couldn’t meet him because he wasn’t in a normal mental state,” she said.
“I tried to negotiate with them, but they wouldn’t allow it,” she said.
‘Tortured to the point of insanity’
U.S.-based democracy activist and historian Wang Dan, who signed the letter, called on the international community to pay more attention to Niu’s case.
“Niu Tengyu was tortured to the point of insanity, even worse than the last time,” Wang said. “The entire international community is responsible for this … because they pay less attention to China’s human rights record than it used to.”
Jie, who co-signed the open letter with Wang, said they plan to send it to U.S. President Joe Biden, members of Congress and the embassies of various countries in China, in a bid to step up pressure on the authorities through diplomatic channels.
“It’s been more than 10 days since the and Coco hasn’t been allowed to see her son,” Jie told RFA Mandarin. “We are very concerned about this.”
“What has happened to him during that time?” Jie said. “Has his condition worsened?”
Repeated calls to Sihui Prison rang unanswered during office hours on Friday.
‘Miscarriage of justice’
Niu, a self-taught computer expert, was tortured by police to get him to confess to being the “ring leader,” his mother has said in previous interviews, adding that he was beaten, suspended in restraints and deprived of sleep.
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 had his genitals burned with a lighter.
An overseas-based ZhinaWiki editor who gave only the pseudonym Mr. L, told Radio Free Asia in a 2021 interview that 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.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.