HONG KONG - Prominent Chinese activist Hu Jia says thugs ambushed him in the streets of Beijing and left him with a fractured nose. The outspoken human rights supporter says he believes the attackers were plainclothes police out to teach him a lesson and deter him from his activism.
Activist Hu Jia told VOA he was assaulted late Wednesday outside a subway station where he parked his car earlier in the day.
"It was raining, so I was carrying an umbrella. With that it was more difficult for people to see my face. But they recognized me after I pressed the button to open my car, and within seconds they jumped on me and started with the beating targeting my eyes," he said.
After punching and kicking him for two minutes, Hu says the men left using a car driven by a third man.
A CT scan at a nearby hospital revealed a fracture on the bridge of Hu's nose.
The men did not wear a uniform, but Hu says he is certain they were plainclothes police.
Hu says he wanted to fight back, but the assailants were too strong and it was clear they knew how to beat people. He says they did not call him by name or tell him why they were beating him. Hu says they only repeated “I teach you a lesson” with a low voice.
Short of a general warning for his activism, Hu says the specific lesson they sought to teach him remains unclear.
The attack against Hu comes amid a general crackdown against political speech in civil society.
On Friday, a court in Beijing will pronounce the verdicts against two members of the New Citizens Movement, a group founded by legal scholar Xu Zhiyong to promote government transparency and more equal education policies.
The organization has become the target of authorities who jailed its founder and put on trial scores of other members.
On social media, Hu Jia had called for people to gather outside the courtroom Friday to show support for the defendants, charged with "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order".
Hu Jia also endorsed Occupy Central, a political movement that calls for democracy in Hong Kong.
On the day of the attack, Hu says he was wearing an “Occupy Central” T-shirt, which authorities had warned him was too sensitive for him to wear outside the house.
“We are concerned that a prominent activist like Hu Jia is attacked in a public place, but I think it will be difficult to pin point what exactly caused this attack because we do not know who these people are,” said Ye Shiwei, senior program officer at the advocacy group Human Rights in China.
Hu started his advocacy on behalf of rural AIDS patients over a decade ago. He became one of China's most critical voices against human rights violations and spent three-and-a-half years in jail for inciting subversion. He was released in 2011.