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China admits to two Falun Gong custody deaths

A hunger striker in Hong Kong
About 10 followers continue their hunger strike near China's liaison office in Hong Kong  


By CNN's Rose Tang
and wire reports

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Chinese police have admitted that two members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement have died in custody.

The Associated Press reported that Wu Liangjie died August 20 after falling from a window of a police office in Baicheng city in the northeast province of Jilin, according to a police official there who refused to give his name.

The official said Wu fell after being locked alone in a room during a break in police questioning following her arrest for distributing Falun Gong pamphlets. He said police are still investigating what happened.

In another detention center in Daqing city in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, Chen Qiulan died of a heart attack on August 14, said a police officer who gave only his last name, Li.

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The 47-year-old sect member was arrested in July for posting information about the spiritual group on the Internet, Li said.

"Coroners determined it was a heart attack. There's no doubt. Her corpse has been cremated with the approval of her family," he added.

However, Falun Gong's Hong Kong spokeswoman Sophie Xiao told CNN that Chen had been tortured for two months until she was beaten to death. She was refused doctors' visits.

Xiao also claimed Wu's body was thrown out of a window after he died in the Baicheng according to her source, but she doesn't know the cause of Wu's death.

The two were among five sect members that Falun Gong members in New York alleged had been beaten to death or driven to suicide by police abuse. Police refused to comment on the other cases.

Falun Gong says more than 200 members have died since the July 1999 ban.

Beijing has blamed the group for causing more than 1,600 deaths, including suicides and members who they claim refused to use medicine.

Falun Gong has been labelled by Beijing as an 'evil cult' but it is legal in Hong Kong, a former British colony promised a high degree of autonomy when it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong hunger strike

Meanwhile, about ten Falungong members have been on hunger strike outside Beijing's representative office in Hong Kong for about a week in support of Falun Gong inmates in the mainland China.

They say more than 50,000 of their fellow practitioners have been thrown into prisons, labor camps and mental hospitals around China where they are mentally and physically abused.

Human rights groups estimate some 200 Falun Gong members have died from torture during detention in China.

Chinese authorities have acknowledged several deaths in custody, but attributed most to suicide or illness.

Beijing has said 150 prominent members have been jailed, mostly for "using a cult for obstructing justice" but has been silent on the numbers sent for "reform through labor" punishment that does not require a judicial trial.






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