á Wednesday November 28, 2001

A farmer who belonged to the banned Falungong group died under suspicious circumstances in a police car within one hour of her arrest, the group's headquarters is claiming.

Liao Qinying, a 33-year-old woman from a village in Wujin city, eastern Jiangsu province, was taken into custody around 8:30 am November 8 by four local government officials who barged into her home while she was husking rice, the Falun Dafa Information Center said.

They ordered her to go to the local government office and when she refused, the men grabbed her and forced her into the police car, the center said.

Later that day, her husband was called to the local police station where police told him his wife had died in the police car at 9:35 am.

An official at the Wujin city police station's political and security section, which is in charge of handling Falungong believers, confirmed to AFP that Liao had died, but said she committed suicide.

He refused to say whether she died in the car or give further details.


The center said Liao's sister, who was able to see the body before it was cremated, saw that there was a hole in the back of Liao's head and that a clump of her hair had been pulled out. The skin on the front of her head had also been broken and scraped.

The center said more than 500 people from Liao's village and neighbouring villages went to the local township to appeal for justice.

It said the Wujin police station brought in several truckloads of police to hold back the crowd, with some officers brandishing semi-automatic guns to intimidate the villagers.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

Liao's body was cremated quickly, the center said.

The US-based Falun Gong centre says more than 300 followers are known to have died in custody since the group was outlawed as an "[Jiang Zemin government's slanderous term omitted]" by the [Jiang Zemin's] government in July 1999. It claims the actual death toll is likely to be more than 1,000.

Reports of such deaths have proved difficult to verify, but independent human rights groups have put the toll at more than 150 deaths, but they do not routinely verify the deaths when Falun Gong reports them.

Beijing considers Falun Gong a threat to social stability and has detained and sent to labor camps without trial tens of thousands of practitioners while sending several hundred others to prison.