Reporters Without Borders called today on European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to use the upcoming EU - China Summit to urge the Chinese authorities to free journalist Yu Dongyue after reports that he has gone insane as a result of being tortured in prison.
The worldwide press freedom organisation expressed shock at the news, which came from another Chinese dissident and friend, who said Yu had been tortured and harassed by his guards. "Very lengthy imprisonment of dissidents is a feature of the repression in China and it is vital that this should be raised at the Summit," it said.
"The release last week of journalist and dissident Liu Jingsheng is sadly eclipsed by the plight of Yu, whose situation shows that ill-treatment continues in China’s prisons despite the government’s efforts to hide its terrible human rights record."
Dissident Lu Decheng, who demonstrated at the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, recently told Radio Free Asia after escaping from China that he had visited Yu in prison and that he was "barely recognisable." He had "a totally dull look in his eyes, kept repeating words over and over as if he was chanting a matra. He didn’t recognise anyone," Lu said.
"He had a big scar on the right side of his head. A fellow prisoner said Yu had been tied to a electricity pole and left out in the hot sun for several days. He was also kept in solitary confinement for two years and that was what broke him."
Lu appealed to the international community to press for his release. "He is not getting any medical treatment and his condition may worsen," he said.
Yu, a journalist and art critic with Liuyang News, was arrested on 23 May 1989 during the Tiananmen Square student protests after he, Lu and others defaced the giant portrait of Mao Zedong that overlooks the square.
Yu was convicted on 11 July that year of "sabotage" and "making counter-revolutionary propaganda" and sentenced by the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court to 20 years in prison and five years loss of civic rights. He was accused of writing articles about freedom of expression and having very daring ideas about art. His sentence was cut by two years in March 2000 but he is not due for release until 21 May 2007.