REPORTING FROM BEIJING -- Chinese dissident writer Yu Jie, who fled to the United States this month, says he was tortured and harassed in 2010 even as the Nobel Peace Prize was being awarded to his best friend, Liu Xiaobo.
Speaking at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday, Yu said he was taken from his home Dec. 9, 2010, the day before the Nobel ceremony, forced into a car with a black hood over his head and taken to an undisclosed location. There he was stripped naked and forced to the floor, where he was kicked and slapped. Security officers threatened to break his fingers and burn his face with cigarettes.
"Right now, foreigners are awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize, humiliating our party and government. We’ll pound you to death to avenge this," Yu said the head security officer told him. "There are no more than 200 intellectuals in the country who oppose the Communist Party and are influential. If the central authorities think that their rule is facing a crisis, they can capture them all in one night and bury them alive."
Yu was released after three days in custody with promises that he wouldn’t speak out, contact foreign reporters or embassies. His injuries were so serious that he needed to be hospitalized.
The 38-year-old Yu has been one of the Chinese Communist Party’s most daring critics. In 2005, he provoked a fury by saying, "We criticize the Yasukuni Shrine [in Japan that honors its war dead], but we have Mao Tse-tung's shrine in the middle of Beijing, which is our own Yasukuni. This is a shame to me, because Mao Tse-tung killed more Chinese than the Japanese did."
Yu has not been able to publish in China for nearly a decade and had spent much of the last year and a half under house arrest before his departure. His most recent book about the Chinese premier, "China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao," was published in Hong Kong in August 2010.
In a statement Wednesday, Yu said he believed that China is backsliding in terms of free speech.
"During the Jiang Zemin era [1989-2002], I had been able to publish some of my works in China -- there was still a certain space for free speech in China. After Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao took power in 2004, I was totally blocked," he said. "Since that time, no media in mainland China would print a single word by me, and articles by others which mentioned my name would be deleted. Though I was physically in China, I became an 'exile at heart' and a 'nonexistent person' in the public space."
Yu, his wife and their 3-year-old son were permitted to leave China on Jan. 11 for the United States. Liao Yiwu, another dissident writer who was not allowed to leave, crossed China’s border into Vietnam in July and went into exile in Germany.
Nobel laureate Liu is serving an 11-year prison term for "subversion of state authority" after organizing a manifesto known as Charter 08 calling for democratic reforms and respect for human rights. He was released briefly in September to attend a mourning ceremony for his recently deceased father amid signs that Chinese authorities were easing the terms of his confinement.