An interview with China's most prominent activist lawyer, who has been missing for almost two years, has surfaced in which he discloses that he was routinely tortured and threatened with his life.
Gao Zhisheng, 44, gave a detailed account of his abuse to the Associated Press eight months ago, during a brief reappearance, but asked the news agency not to publish it unless he went missing again or was able to leave China.
The AP has now released his account, saying that Mr Gao has not been seen since.
In his account, Mr Gao said that three police officers stripped him naked and pistol-whipped him for two days and two nights.
When the policemen tired, they bound his arms and legs and threw him on the floor until they had caught their breath and were ready to resume.
"That degree of cruelty, there's no way to recount it," said Mr Gao. "For 48 hours my life hung by a thread."
Mr Gao said the torture was worse than during a previous disappearance in 2007 when he said he had suffered electric shocks to his genitals and burning cigarettes being held close to his eyes to cause temporary blindness.
Over a 14-month period of confinement, Mr Gao had been held in a succession of hostels, farm houses, apartments and prisons in Beijing, Shaanxi province and in Xinjiang. He said he had been hooded several times, tied with belts and made to sit motionless for up to 16 hours.
The police also threatened to kill him and dump his body, saying that he was "not good enough" for prison. "'You must forget you're human. You're a beast,"' Gao said he was told.
Mr Gao, who was born into poverty in Shaanxi and lived for part of his childhood in a cave, taught himself law and became one of China's most celebrated lawyers until he began taking on a succession of controversial cases involving practitioners of Falun Gong, the spiritual movement which Beijing has banned.
He became a galvanising figure for the Chinese human rights movement, and has been tipped as another candidate for the Nobel Peace prize.
However, an attempt was made on his life in 2006 and he has been repeatedly "disappeared" and tortured since then.
His wife and children escaped in 2009 to the United States, and said they had not had any word from him since then.
Mr GAO's account emerges, as Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, prepares to visit Washington next week.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based rights group, meanwhile released a new report evaluating the progress that China had made with its official two-year human rights plan, which ended last month.
Human Rights Watch said that while China deserved praise for drawing up a plan to improve human rights, it had been "largely a series of unfulfilled promises".
The report singled out the "endemic" use of torture in China and said that "100pc of criminal defence lawyers believe coercion of confession by torture is extremely serious in China".
The rights group also criticised China for making "manifestly false statements" to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2009, such as: "There is no censorship in the country" and "There are no black jails (illegal detention centres) in the country".