Eight years behind bars for activist Wu Gan


Super Vulgar Butcher (超级低俗屠夫 chāojí dīsú túfū) is the social media identity of rights activist Wu Gan 吴淦. On December 26, he was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Chinese court for the crime of subversion.

  • Wu is portly, and sports a goatee and shaved head. He was a soldier and has worked as a security guard. His iconic appearance and effective use of social media and creative street protests in front of government buildings gave his online work prominence. The government did not care for this.
  • Since 2008, Wu has been active in promoting human rights cases in China. In that year he advocated for Deng Yujiao, a waitress who fatally stabbed a government official who tried to sexually assault her.
  • Wu’s activism has been unbending. He called himself a “butcher who slaughtered abusers of human rights.” Critics said that his online and real world protest stunts were “vulgar,” so he appropriated the word and began calling himself Super Vulgar Butcher.
  • “Wu’s brash methods were not universally welcomed by Chinese human rights lawyers,” but Wu believed that “vocal, eye-catching actions were essential to force judges and officials to heed the voices of otherwise powerless citizens,” says (paywall) the New York Times.
  • Wu disappeared into the Chinese police system sometime between May and July 2015. He was one of the earliest and highest-profile victims of the “709 Crackdown,” a term describing the mass arrests of activists and rights lawyers that peaked on July 9, 2015.
  • In a statement circulated before his sentencing, Wu wrote: “I will be convicted not because I’m really guilty, but because I refused to accept a state-designated lawyer, would not plead guilty and go along with media propaganda, and insisted on exposing their savagery in torturing and abusing me, as well as the prosecutors’ cover-ups and dereliction of office.” Wu did not cooperate with the authorities.
  • His obduracy seems to have led to his stiff prison sentence. The South China Morning Post reports that Xie Yang 谢阳, a Chinese lawyer who was also detained in the 709 Crackdown, confessed to inciting subversion and was convicted, but will not face time behind bars.
  • The Chinese Communist Party likes to try “sensitive” cases around Christmas, when the West is sleeping off festive hangovers. Wu Gan and Xie Yang’s cases were both heard on December 26. Nobel Prize-winning activist and writer Liu Xiaobo 刘晓波 was convicted on subversion charges on December 25, 2009. Liu died behind bars on July 13, 2017.
  • A few more reports on Wu Gan’s conviction: BBC, South China Morning Post, and for the take from the Party’s attack dog newspaper, see this Global Times piece.

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