|Yu Jie's book on Wen Jiabao and his ties to jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo reportedly angered the authorities [EPA]
A Chinese dissident who was allegedly tortured by the authorities in 2010 is seeking asylum in the United States.
Yu Jie was arrested for writing a book critical of Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister. He also had close ties to the 2010 Nobel Peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo.
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.
In his first public appearance after he arrived in the United States with his family last week, Yu described a near-death experience at the hands of police torturers, quoting one as saying: "We'll pound you to death to avenge this (Liu's Nobel)."
Picked up by state security officers in Beijing the day before Liu's award ceremony in Oslo, Yu said he was taken to a secret location, beaten, stripped and kicked by plainclothes officials who threatened to post his naked pictures online.
Yu, 38, told a news conference that his captors burned his face with cigarettes, kicked and slapped him repeatedly. He was taken to the hospital for life-saving emergency treatment. When Yu tried to tell a doctor he had been beaten, a security official threatened to "pull out all of the tubes from your body and let you die," Reuters news agency reported.
"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," Yu quoted one of his police interrogators as saying.
Chinese officials have not commented on Yu's torture allegations. Last week a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said he knew nothing about Yu.
Human rights groups have recorded worsening conditions for dissidents, lawyers and outspoken writers in China since the 2010 Nobel Prize decision infuriated China, if not earlier.
US ambassador Gary Locke said in a televised interview this week that the human rights situation had deteriorated since before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"The human rights climate has always ebbed and flowed in China up and down, but we seem to be in a down period and it's getting worse," Locke told a US talk show.
"There's a significant crackdown and repression going on within China," he said in remarks that drew a swift denial from China's foreign ministry.
Locke's comments came as a Chinese court jailed writer Li Tie, 53, for 10 years on subversion charges for writing essays that urged people to defend their rights, a relative told Reuters.
Locke attributed the crackdown to the Chinese leadership's fears that a movement like the Arab Spring could happen in China.
Some analysts say China's Communist Party is tightening controls over society ahead of a leadership handover late this year from President Hu Jintao to Vice President Xi Jinping.