A Chinese activist was struck by an assailant and left paralyzed after meeting with police to discuss an interview he gave on German television, a human rights group and a German broadcaster said Tuesday.

The attack on Fu Xiancai, a critic of the government's treatment of people displaced by the Three Gorges dam project, highlighted the risks Chinese rights campaigners face.

In recent years, activists have increasingly complained about attacks by thugs who they and rights groups have sometimes charged were acting on orders from authorities.

In an interview aired by German TV network ARD on May 19, Fu said he had been threatened and beaten for complaining to the government about not getting compensation he was promised for relocating, according to a letter from a German broadcaster, Norddeutscher Rundfunk.

Three weeks later, on June 8, he was called in by police in Zigui county to discuss the interview. While walking home after meeting with police, Fu was struck from behind, and the blow broke his neck, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down, New York-based Human Rights in China said in statement.

"It is beyond doubt that the attack was an attack of revenge, among other things, for his comment on German television," Jobst Plog, the head of Norddeutscher Rundfunk — a member the ARD public television network — said in the letter, which was sent to the Chinese Embassy in Berlin and released publicly Tuesday.

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A man who answered the telephone at the Zigui police department said he had heard of an incident involving Fu and that it being investigated. He refused to give his name or answer other questions.

Political activists have long faced suppression by police and security forces in China.

In Fu's case, the Three Gorges dam has been a politically sensitive issue. Championed by senior leaders, the dam was designed to stop flooding on the Yangtze and produce enough electricity to light up Shanghai.

But it required relocating 1.13 million people, generating anger and resentment. The issue is particularly volatile around Zigui, home to many relocated people.

Fu was under 24-hour police surveillance while receiving treatment at the No. 1 People's Hospital in Yichang city, and his family has been barred from seeing or contacting him, Plog said in the letter.

Fu was "made out to be a 'traitor' because he spoke to foreign media," Plog said in the letter. He said the assailants were "members of a brigade of thugs."

Germany instructed its embassy in Beijing to seek an explanation from China, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said. He said respect for civil liberties and working conditions for foreign journalists are important to Germany.