Updated at 8.30 p.m. EST on 2012-09-08
As China's political elite gear up for a crucial, once-in-a-decade leadership transition later in the year, a U.S.-based Chinese author has published a highly critical book of the leadership of outgoing president Hu Jintao.
Yu Jie, who hails from the fiery southwest of China, is an exiled writer and former vice-president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center from Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan.
A notable critic of the Chinese government's human rights record, Yu's latest volume delivers a stinging rebuke to the country's leaders, singling out Hu in the book's title, Emperor of the River Crabs, a satirical pun on Hu's use of the word "harmony" to indicate social cohesion and public order.
Harmony, or hexie, is a close homonym for "river crabs," online satirical code for the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
In online satirical media, these are the sworn enemies of the "grass mud horses," whose name puns on a common expletive and which first emerged as a symbolic attack on official censorship dressed up as anti-pornography campaigns.
The metaphorical battle of the river crabs and the grass-mud horses is at the heart of Chinese netizens' attempts to stay connected with, and informed about, events at home and abroad, regardless of the government's political sensitivities.
"Of course I feel that it is very fitting that this book should be published on the eve of the 18th Party Congress," Yu said in a recent interview.
"Just as Hu Jintao is concerning himself with his legacy, and the official media are all prattling about a golden era, I and I believe most Chinese people think that quite the opposite is true."
Yu said he was particularly keen to expose the dark side of Hu's leadership, which he said had seen a sharp deterioration in China's human rights situation.
"The past decade has been one of violent fighting to defend our rights, a decade in which the gap between rich and poor became a gulf, and a decade of corruption and abuses," Yu said.
He said Hu, a bland and rigid sort of person, had set back the progress of democracy in China by 10 years, and he had wanted to write the book to analyze precisely how he was able to come to power.
"I make a comparison with [Nikita] Khrushchev, in a historical ... analysis," Yu said, referring to the former Soviet leader.
Yu's book describes a China under Hu in which any political momentum towards democratization is constantly denied, and in which economic decisions are taken to benefit the state, not its people, by a bureaucratized Party rife with corruption and abuse of power.
Yu said he has scant hope that the forthcoming Party Congress will yield any real change in the behavior and policies of China's leaders, nor its regional and local officials.
"I think [the current ideology] will continue," he said. "There will be no fundamental change."
"[China isn't going to] initiate political reforms or overturn the official verdict on the June 4 [military crackdown]. Nor will it release [jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner] Liu Xiaobo."
He said mass unrest looks set to continue in the absence of any room for political dissent or media freedom.
Yu, a prominent writer and dissident who fled China with his family in early 2012, gave an account of brutal torture at the hands of state security police after being kidnapped ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony for pro-democracy activist Liu.
Yu, 38, says his writing was subject to years of official censorship, rendering him a “nonexistent person in the public space,” in addition to harassment and house arrest from the authorities.
Yu, who is also a leader of the underground Protestant church in China, told RFA in January that "as a writer and as a Christian, I no longer had any freedom to express myself and to practice my religion. So I chose to come to the United States, where I can live freely."
He has vowed to continue his writing as part of his struggle to help bring freedom to his compatriots.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.