Xu Wenli, one of the most moderate and tenacious leaders of China's ill-fated Democracy Movement, has been placed in solitary confinement and reduced to minimum rations after smuggling a 262-page memoir out of his Peking prison, according to Democracy Movement supporters in the United States.

Wang Bingzhang, chairman of the New York-based Chinese Alliance for Democracy, said Xu, 43, has been denied mail, visitors and most exercise breaks and been questioned repeatedly about who might have helped bring his manuscript to the West.

A copy of the document, a hand-written autobiographical work titled "My Defense," was given to The Washington Post and United Press International in October by James Fan, a member of the staff of the Chinese Alliance for Democracy magazine, China Spring. Fan said sympathetic members of the Chinese Public Security Bureau, the police and prison administration helped smuggle the manuscript out of Peking No. 1 Municipal Prison.

Xu (pronounced something like "shoe") was a railroad electrician before he became the editor of the longest surviving journal of the 1978-80 Democracy Movement in China. He said in the manuscript that his 15-year prison sentence stemmed from charges that he had failed to edit out a reference to the "bloody" dictatorship of the proletariat, had conspired with foreigners and government critics in Hong Kong and had criticized the 15-year sentence given Wei Jingsheng, a more radical government critic, as "too harsh."

Wang said Xu's wife reported the new prison sanctions in a letter to one alliance member in Paris and met with another who was visiting Peking. Although denied the chance to see Xu since October, his wife said sympathetic jail personnel had relayed word that his health had deteriorated.

Chinese officials in Peking said they had no information on Xu's case, Washington Post correspondent Daniel Southerland reported.