A Chinese dissident writer who spent five years in jail said Wednesday he was wrongly imprisoned and subjected to ill-treatment "beyond people's imagination."
Yang Maodong told The Associated Press that the charges of alleged illegal business activities for which he was jailed were trumped up and that his jailers only questioned him about his pro-democracy activities, not business matters.
"I am innocent," said Yang. "It's a political case and I was called a political prisoner in the places where I was detained. All of this is political persecution of me because I promoted democracy."
Arrested in September 2006 and sentenced in November 2007, Yang was released from prison Tuesday.
Yang's release comes as reports emerge about the alleged mistreatment of several Chinese bloggers, lawyers and other intellectuals who were rounded up earlier this year in a crackdown on dissent. Those detentions were related to government fears that anti-government protests in North Africa and the Middle East could spread to China.
China's Communist leadership doesn't tolerate any perceived challenge to one-party rule. Critics are often jailed on vague charges of subversion and endangering state security or, sometimes, for alleged economic crimes. Increasingly, police have also resorted to detaining people without charge and refusing to inform their families of their whereabouts.
Dozens of people disappeared into police custody for weeks or months at a time beginning in February. Wang Songlian, a researcher with China Human Rights Defenders in Hong Kong, said Wednesday that her group has heard accounts of mistreatment from 10 of those.
She said they described beatings, repeated lengthy interrogations, being forced to sit or remain in very uncomfortable positions for long hours, sleep deprivation, and verbal threats to themselves and their families.
"When they spoke with us, they were pretty fearful and I think the threats have been pretty effective," she said.
The New York-based advocacy group, Human Rights in China, said in a statement Wednesday that in 2007 Yang was interrogated for 13 days and nights without sleep, tied to a wooden bed for 42 days with his arms and legs shackled, and hung from the ceiling by his arms and legs while police electrocuted his genitals with a high voltage baton. At the Meizhou Prison in Guangdong, he was allowed to be beaten by an inmate while 200 others watched, it said.
The group quoted Yang's wife, Zhang Qing, who now lives in the United States, as saying that police in Guangzhou and Shenyang "tortured him by using abominable measures."
An official at the Meizhou Prison who refused to give his name said the prison didn't comment on individual cases. The number for the general office of the Shenyang Public Security Bureau rang unanswered.
Yang himself declined to describe his treatment by authorities.
"The only thing I can tell you is that I was given special treatment beyond people's imagination in the detention center in Liaoning and in prison," Yang said. "I don't want to talk about it in detail. I want to convey a message of forgiveness to the public and not to talk about hatred."
Yang said his health was poor and he had yet to decide about his next moves but he insisted he was basically unchanged after his prison term.
"My past experience will not make me more radical or weaken me," he said. "I still have a fundamental belief that Chinese society will realize democracy and the rule of law."
Rights groups have said Yang, who writes under the alias Guo Feixiong, was targeted for writing the book "Shenyang Political Earthquake," which allegedly exposed official corruption in Liaoning.
Another dissident, Beijing lawyer Jiang Tianyong, described his ordeal to the South China Morning Post newspaper in a report that came out Wednesday.
He told the paper he was beaten badly on the first two nights after he was detained and endured verbal abuse for the next two months as well as physical abuse.
Jiang said his handlers told him: "You know your life is in our hands? So is your wife's and your child's. If you cooperate, perhaps the government will be more understanding.
"Don't even dream about being transferred to a detention center, or getting tried in a court. If we beat you to death and bury you, all it means is dirtying a piece of land."
Wang, the Hong Kong rights activist, confirmed that her organization documented Jiang's experiences and that it matched the paper's account.