Reuters: Five Falun Gong members die in China [Excerpt]
Sunday, September 23, 2001 at 20:00 JST
BEIJING -- Five more members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement have died after beatings in Chinese police custody, the group's U.S.-based information center said.
The center said in a statement late on Saturday it now had details of 283 adherents who had died from torture during detention in China, but quoted government sources putting the actual number at more than 1,000.
Three of the five men died after police beat and force-fed them when they went on hunger strike in protest at their detention, the statement said.
Police in the provinces of Sichuan, Jiangxi and Shandong, where Falun Gong said the men died between April and August this year, declined to comment.
Falun Gong has said more than 50,000 adherents have been sent to prisons, labor camps and mental hospitals in China since it was banned.
Group spokesman Adam Montanaro said he thought China would arrest more adherents in the coming weeks.
"Chinese leaders have traditionally prepared for large-scale public celebrations, such as China's National Day coming up on October 1, by rounding up practitioners of Falun Gong who might reveal the persecution campaign," he said.
Montanaro added he thought President Jiang Zemin would escalate the persecution of Falun Gong believers while the world's attention was focused on the attacks on the United States.
Following the death of two of the adherents in Shandong, the authorities responsible were given new assignments, the Falun Gong information centre said.
Chinese authorities have acknowledged several deaths of Falun Gong members in custody, but say most resulted from suicide or illness.