China probes another suspected death in detention

08:49, December 20, 2010      

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Prosecutors in an east China city are probing the sudden death of an inmate who was in police custody for less than a month, after his family claimed he might have been beaten, the local authorities said Sunday.

Zou Shenghuai, 54, fainted in his cell at a detention center in Yuanzhou District, Yichun City, east China's Jiangxi Province, on the morning of Dec. 11. He died after emergency medical treatment failed.

"We have launched an investigation at the family's request and will request an autopsy to determine the cause of the death," said Li Jianfeng, a deputy director of the district procuratorate in Yichun.

Li said investigators had so far found no signs of assault or illegal treatment linked to Zou's death.

A police physical exam report said Zou had emphysema, a swollen liver and a blood tumor in the spleen when he was detained on Nov. 23 on charges of illegal logging.

"Whether it was caused by illness or beating, the death of my father was a blow to the family," said Zou's daughter, Zou Fuhua. "It is hard for me to accept that he died just 20 days after being detained, especially when I know beating in custody is common."

The autopsy should be conducted by forensic experts from outside Jiangxi, preferably from Beijing or Shanghai where forensic analysis was more trustworthy, Zou Fuhua said.

Beating and other irregularities in China's detention facilities have come under close public scrutiny after a string of "unnatural" deaths over the past two years.

The most prominent case was reported in February 2009, when authorities in a detention center in the southwestern Yunnan Province said 24-year-old inmate Li Qiaoming had died while playing hide-and-seek. An inquiry concluded that Li was beaten to death by three other inmates.

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