Yu Jie: An exile at heart
21 Jan 2012

The defection of Chinese writer and dissident Yu Jie last week revealed shocking allegations of torture and beatings more usually associated with rogue American troops in Iraq.

Yu, a close friend of imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo, is most famous for his mocking attack on the country’s premier, China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao, published in Hong Kong in late 2010.

Yu fled with his family to the US on 11 January. Shortly after, he held a press conference in Washington and released a written statement on why he had chosen to defect. Below we pick out the most shocking of these claims.

Though I was physically in China, I became an ‘exile at heart’ and a ‘non-existent person’ in the public space.

Illegal house arrests, torture, surveillance, tracking, and being taken on ‘trips’ became part of my everyday life.

Several of the plainclothes officials came at me again and began beating me in the head and the face without explanation. They stripped off all my clothes and pushed me, naked, to the ground, and kicked me maniacally. 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.

They forced me to kneel and slapped me over a hundred times in the face. They even forced me to slap myself. They would be satisfied only when they heard the slapping sound, and laughed madly. They also kicked me in the chest and then stood on me after I had fallen to the ground.

The head state security officer told him:

If the order comes from above, we can dig a pit to bury you alive in half an hour, and no one on earth would know… If the central authorities think that their rule is facing a crisis, they can capture [all China’s dissidents] in one night and bury them alive.

While the post-Tiananmen Square period was a time when Chinese dissidents defected in their droves, there is still a steady trickle of Chinese who seek refugee status overseas. Some of them leave legally, while others, who are denied passports or the right to leave smuggle themselves out, usually via Vietnam. They include fellow writer Liao Yiwu, who has been living in Germany since 2011;  Chinese diplomat, Chen Yonglin, who fled to Australia in 2005; and AIDS activist Wan Yanhai, who left for the United States in 2010.  The wife of Chinese dissident human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, Geng He, has also been living in the US for the past two years. Her husband is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for violating probation rules, having been missing for more than a year.

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