WASHINGTON — A prominent Chinese dissident who fled last week to the United States cautioned Wednesday over Beijing's influence in the world, saying that the communist state was bent on exporting its model.
Yu Jie, a writer who defiantly published a critical biography of Premier Wen Jiabao in 2010 in Hong Kong, said that he was physically assaulted and harassed before he eventually made the decision to fly into exile in Washington.
"I think the danger of this evil is even greater than the Soviet Union because during the Cold War, the Soviet Union was behind the Iron Curtain and not a part of the globalized world," Yu told a news conference.
"Not only is the Chinese government persecuting its own people, but also it's exporting this system to other countries, such as in Africa," he said.
Yu has complained that he was forbidden from publishing or practicing his religion. He is a member of a Protestant church which is not authorized by the Chinese government.
The 38-year-old said that he came under tighter surveillance after fellow dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, including suffering physical abuse by authorities.
"They stripped off all my clothes and pushed me to the ground and started hitting me -- more than 100 times," Yu said.
Yu urged international pressure on China, saying: "I think the Western countries overlooking the human rights issues will even harm their own interests."
Liu, a fellow author who published an audacious petition for democratic reforms, is the only Nobel Peace Prize winner in prison. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion on Christmas Day 2009.
Human rights groups frequently voice concern about other Chinese dissidents who remain in the country including Chen Guangcheng, a blind self-taught lawyer who alleged forced abortions under the country's one-child-only policy.
Chen and his wife have reported being beaten and all visitors seeking to visit his home have been blocked.
Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer who has defended some of China's most vulnerable groups including Christians and coal miners, has been held largely incommunicado since his arrest in February 2009.
Gary Locke, the US ambassador to Beijing, said in an interview Monday that China's human rights situation was deteriorating as the communist leadership felt threatened by pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East.
"The Chinese leaders are very fearful of something similar happening within China," Locke told "The Charlie Rose Show" on US public television.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Wednesday that Locke's concerns were shared across the administration.
"We are being quite forthright with the Chinese government about our concerns," she said.