05/31/2001 9:23 am ET

BEIJING (AP) Two more members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement have died in Chinese labor camps, and another follower committed suicide, police and government officials said Thursday. Gao Xiufeng died in a labor camp in the northern province of Heilongjiang after going on a hunger strike, a police officer said. Camp medical staff tried to force feed her intravenously, but failed to prevent her death, said the officer reached by telephone in Xingsheng, Gao's home village.

The officer, who declined to give his name, didn't say when she died. In a statement, U.S.-based Falun Gong practitioners said Gao died May 12.

Lai Zhijun, arrested last year for protesting in Beijing against the government's ban on Falun Gong, died last year in a labor camp in Sanshui, in the southern province of Guangdong, a government official said.

Lai was a government office manager in the Guangdong town of Fenggang, said the official, who also works in Fenggang. He said he did not know the cause of Lai's death. Falun Gong said Lai died four days after being put in the camp on March 29, 2000.

Another Falun Gong practitioner, Zhao Fengnian, committed suicide by throwing himself before a train, said a government official in Ershilipu, Zhao's hometown in the northern province of Hebei.

The official, who declined to give his name, didn't say if Zhao had ever been sent to a labor camp. Falun Gong said Zhao went missing on May 5 but didn't say when he died.

Falun Gong says more than 200 followers have died in custody or from official persecution since the government banned the spiritual movement in July 1999 as a threat to [party' name omitted] Party rule and social order. Amnesty International, a London-based human rights group, has counted at least 93 deaths.

Amnesty said most deaths came from beatings, torture or suicides. Chinese government officials say practitioners have committed suicide or died of natural causes in custody but maintain that no one has been killed.

China has sent thousands of practitioners to labor camps a punishment imposed without trial in the course of the crackdown.

Category: Deaths