Falun Gong Says Police Beat Follower to Death

Associated Press

Police beat to death a handicapped follower of the banned Falun Gong meditation sect, the group said Thursday.

Zhang Shengfan died three days after being dragged from his home in Shuangcheng, a city in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, the group said in a statement sent to American reporters. Zhang, a 38-year-old laid-off factory worker, walked with a cane.

Falun Gong said Zhang's death brought to 224 the number of its followers who have died in police custody since the government launched a crackdown on the group nearly two years ago.

Independent sources say more than 100 people have died. Beijing says some followers committed suicide in custody.

An official at the Shuangcheng detention center confirmed that Zhang was dead but said he died after going on a hunger strike. "One thing for sure is that he was not beaten to death," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Police refused to comment.

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