The relatives of a recent medical college graduate who died in police custody in the northern Chinese city of Handan say he was beaten to death at a local police station, an investigative report by RFA�s Mandarin service has found.

The relatives of Feng Wenqing, a native of Henan Province who graduated from the Handan Medical College in the northern province of Hebei, say that they still have had no satisfactory explanation for injuries to Feng�s body, given that the officially reported cause of death was heart attack.

Feng�s half-brother Feng Wenxin said that on the night of March 7, 2003, he tried to call his brother�s cellphone several times but got no answer. �The last time we rang, the police answered it... They told us to go round there, and I went there and found out what had happened. They said he had got into a fight with someone. They said he was brought there by security patrol officers and died ten minutes later,� Feng Wenxin said.

Feng�s sister Feng Guojun told RFA that when police heard he was a student at the medical school they were incredulous. �They thought he was [a migrant worker]. I said he wasn�t�he was a student. They didn�t believe me.�

When Feng Wenxin went to the police station to be informed of his brother�s death, police told him there were no injuries on the body. But later at the morgue, when he went to identify the body, it was a different story. �There was blood on his head, an injury to his head. At the time I asked them, I asked a head of department there why there was blood on his head. And that chief detective of the district public security bureau Lu Zilin said to me: �I can�t explain it.��

According to the official verdict on the case, Feng died of heart failure as a result of stress. The head of the Chongtong police station where Feng died, Yang Baohua, told RFA there was nothing untoward in the 27-year-old�s death.

�I can say that from start to finish the entire affair was handled in a legal fashion, according to correct legal procedure. He was only in our police station for a few minutes,� Yang said. Asked if Feng died as the result of police beating, Yang said: �That sort of thing doesn�t happen any more in China. There�s no need to beat people�they have rights. No, there�s no need for that sort of behavior. I think you�ll find it very, very seldom nowadays in China.�

He said he and his officers had become �victims� of the allegations made by Feng�s family. �We have become the victims of these reports,� he said. �Because of what the other side is saying, they�re turning black into white.�

Yang�s reassuring tone was a long way from an experience reported by Feng�s sister, however, who said she was beaten by Yang's two officers when she went to the police station to fetch her mother.

�I was told that this was quite normal,� she said. �It was last grave-sweeping festival�my mother went up there, because they�d killed her son, and she was grieving over that, and she stood there crying for two hours while those guys, including Mr. Yang, just sat in there drinking tea and smoking cigarettes and they wouldn�t even open the door for her.�

�I went up there on the same day, at about four in the afternoon, and they beat me up for about an hour. They beat me, and I fell on the floor. I�d only recently had a baby.�

Reports of death by police beating are common throughout China, and are often linked to corrupt practices within the Public Security Bureau or local government officials, who frequently regard the police as their private thugs. Police seem more likely to beat up those with lower social status, such as migrant laborers from poorer provinces.

Last year, Chinese media gave widespread coverage to the beating death in police custody of university graduate Sun Zhigang, who was detained because he was unable to produce an identity card, and came from a different part of China. A total of 23 people, including six local civil servants, have received death penalties and prison terms ranging from three years to life for Sun�s murder.

And in October 2003, police in the eastern province of Shandong beat to death a 33-year-old woman, a member of an unofficial Christian church, after her family refused to pay bribes for her release. #####


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