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AP: 2 Falun Gong Practitioners Die in Custody

November 24, 2000 |  

The Associated Press

Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2000; 11:58 a.m. EST

BEIJING -- Two more followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group have died in Chinese police custody and another will go on trial for spying, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Li Wenrui, a 37-year-old government trade official from the northeastern city of Harbin, died Nov. 9, three days after his arrest in Beijing for protesting the government crackdown on Falun Gong, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. Police said Li killed himself by jumping out a window, but relatives said they suspected he was beaten to death, the Hong Kong-based center said.

Yang Guijin, 40, was arrested for distributing pamphlets and died Oct. 15 at a detention center in eastern Shandong province after a weeklong hunger strike to protest beatings by guards, the center said.

The deaths raise to 70 the number of Falun Gong followers who have died in detention since Falun Gong was banned in July 1999, the center said.

The information center also reported that Teng Chunyan, 37, who has a Chinese passport and also has permanent resident status in the United States, will go on trial Thursday in Beijing for "gathering intelligence for an overseas organization."

Teng is the first Falun Gong follower with U.S. residency to be tried on charges of spying, which could bring a sentence of more than 10 years, the center said. The indictment said Teng broke the law by mailing information about Falun Gong overseas after arriving in China in March, the center said.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it had no information on Teng, and prosecutors and courts refused to discuss the case.

Falun Gong attracted millions of followers in the 1990s with its health regimen and eclectic philosophy mixing Taoism, Buddhism and the ideas of its founder, former government clerk Li Hongzhi, now believed to be in the United States.