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Chinese dissident goes into exile in U.S., says was tortured

By Reuters
Friday, January 13, 2012 1:34 EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) – One of China’s most prominent Christian dissidents, Yu Jie, has gone into exile to the United States after he said he was tortured in a crackdown on dissent, he told Reuters on Friday.

Yu said he would give a detailed account of abuse and beating he suffered in detention, probably when he testifies before a U.S. Congressional panel planned for next week.

He said his treatment deteriorated sharply after his fellow dissident, Liu Xiaobo, won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

“My circumstances dramatically worsened, and I experienced extremely cruel torture,” Yu said by telephone from near Washington D.C.

“A few days before the ceremony for awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Prize, I was kidnapped and several people stripped me and beat me to the point where I collapsed and had to be taken to hospital to be saved,” he said.

Afterwards, Yu said, he suffered from months of memory loss, sleeplessness and pain.

“They were outraged about Liu Xiaobo receiving the prize, and vented their outrage on me. They believed that as one of his best friends, I shared a role in what he did,” he said.

Liu was convicted in 2009 on charges of inciting subversion and sentenced to 11 years in jail. His jailing and the secretive house arrest of his wife Liu Xia, have become the focus of an international outcry over China’s punishment of dissent.

China’s Communist Party is preparing for a leadership handover late this year, when its determination to fend off political challenges to its rule is likely to intensify.

Yu’s testimony could focus attention on that crackdown ahead of a planned visit to the United States by Vice Premier Xi Jinping, who is likely to succeed Hu Jintao as president.

“For the past year, for long periods I had no freedom and was under house arrest,” Yu told Radio Free Asia, in an interview published on its website (www.rfa.org) late on Thursday.

“Without any freedom to express myself through writing and my freedom of religious belief, I’ve chosen to live elsewhere.”

For much of 2011, Chinese police held hundreds of dissidents, activists and protest organizers in a crackdown when the Communist Party sought to prevent protests inspired by anti-authoritarian uprisings in the Arab world.

Bookish-looking Yu, 38, has been among the most outspoken critics of the Communist Party’s controls on religion and expression. In 2006, he and two other dissidents met President George W. Bush in the White House.

Yu’s writings have been banned from published in mainland China for over five years. But before that he drew nationwide attention as a member of a cohort of young essayists who challenged party-blessed orthodoxies.

A Christian since 2002-2003, Yu has also criticized the government’s closures of “house churches” that refuse to accept official controls.

Yu, who lived on the outskirts of Beijing, has continued publishing in Hong Kong and abroad, and in 2010 he issued a scathing condemnation of Premier Wen Jiabao, who has a reputation as one of the party’s most liberal leaders.

Yu called him a “film idol” who failed to act on vows to promote rule of law and protect ordinary citizens’ welfare.

“Before I left, a senior officer with state security told me that I’d be allowed to go to the United States and can return, but I should know that if I do things in the U.S. that they don’t like, they won’t let me back,” said Yu.

Authorities had stopped him from meeting foreign reporters and diplomats before he left, he said. He was finishing writing a biography of Liu, he said.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

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[Image via Shutterstock.]

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