Chinese dissident Yu Jie said Wednesday that security officials in Beijing tortured him to the brink of death because of his political opinions and friendship with another prominent pro-democracy advocate, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
In his first public remarks since he fled China with his wife and son last week, Mr. Yu said he may seek political asylum in the United States and will continue to speak out against the “increasingly fascist, barbaric and brutal regime” in China.
The writer described the Chinese government as the “greatest threat to the free world and the greatest threat to all freedom-loving people.”
A Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington did not return a request for comment.
A longtime critic of the Chinese government, Mr. Yu endured frequent torture, harassment and house arrest.
His friend, Mr. Liu, is in prison serving an 11-year sentence for urging democratic reform in China.
Mr. Yu’s story is closely linked to Mr. Liu’s.
Chinese authorities threatened Mr. Yu for writing a biography of Mr. Liu. Mr. Yu’s wife was put under house arrest after Chinese authorities found a note to her from the imprisoned Nobel laureate’s wife, Liu Xia.
Mr. Yu said his life changed Oct. 8, 2010, when Mr. Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Illegal house arrests, torture, surveillance … became part of my everyday life,” he told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington.
He provided vivid details of the torture and harassment he was subjected to by Chinese authorities.
“The day before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was the darkest moment in my life,” he said.
On that day, Mr. Yu was forced to wear a black hood and taken from his home by security officials to an undisclosed location, where he was stripped naked and beaten.
“They also had a camera and were taking pictures as I was being beaten, saying with glee that they would post the naked photos online,” he said.
“They forced me to spread out my hands and bent my fingers backwards one by one. They said, ‘You’ve written articles attacking the Communist Party with these hands, so we want to break your fingers.’ “
Chinese authorities accused Mr. Yu of taking part in an effort to subvert the state, writing a critical book on Chinese leader Wen Jiabao, and working on Mr. Liu’s biography.
Mr. Yu was released Dec. 13, 2010, but the harassment did not end.
“Most of the time, I was unable to go to church or attend Bible study meetings and could not regularly practice my faith as a Christian,” he said.
“To me, that was a very painful thing.”
Eventually he decided to flee.
“I had no choice but to leave China, to make a complete break from the fascist, barbaric and brutal regime,” he said.
Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said Mr. Yu had laid out “a raw, naked set of facts for which the Chinese government has to be made to answer.”
She said “rhetoric in defense of human rights by governments like the U.S. is helpful.”
She added, however, that “without meaningful and actionable policy consequences for a [country’s] failure to improve, it is likely the rhetoric doesn’t get us very far.”
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is due to visit Washington in February.
In China, Mr. Yu was forced to write a statement promising not to meet with foreign journalists, contact foreign embassies or criticize the nine members of the Politburo of the Communist Party.
He said promises he made were “null and void” because they had been extracted by torture and coercion.
On Wednesday, Mr. Yu met with Michael Posner, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, and Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
Mr. Yu also intends to file a complaint with the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“I have already attained my hard-won freedom and security; to speak out for my compatriots who have neither freedom nor security is a responsibility and a mission that I cannot shirk,” he said.
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