Published: Oct 18, 2012 1:55 AM EDT
Updated: Oct 18, 2012 6:31 AM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) - Chinese dissident and author Yu Jie said late Wednesday he was granted asylum in the United States last week and plans to start a website in support of his friend, imprisoned Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Yu, who was in New York to receive a civil courage prize, came to the U.S. in January after being detained several times last year and being beaten so badly that he passed out.

He wrote a book critical of the premier called "China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao" and helped found the Independent PEN Center in China, which fights for freedom of expression.

He plans to settle in Virginia and publish Liu's works online, Yu said.

"I want more people to know about and support Mr. Liu Xiaobo," Yu told The Associated Press, speaking through an interpreter. "I believe he will have a more important role than (South Africa's Nelson) Mandela and (Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San) Suu Kyi, because he comes from a bigger country."

Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for co-authoring a bold call for ending single-party rule and enacting democratic reforms. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

Yu was the winner of the 2012 Civil Courage Prize, which is awarded by the Train Foundation.