Chinese lawyers say they were beaten, detained

Beijing, China - A Chinese lawyer says he and a colleague were detained and beaten by police while visiting the family of a man who died under suspicious circumstances in a labor camp.

Zhang Kai said he and Li Chunfu were meeting with the family of Jiang Xiqing in the western city of Chongqing on Wednesday afternoon when more than two dozen officers entered the home, demanded identification papers, then kicked and beat them.

The two were taken to the local precinct station where they were interrogated before being released after midnight with a warning not to represent the family, Zhang said.

"We were beaten up and insulted, but we never got a real explanation from police as to the reasons for our detention," Zhang said in a telephone interview.

Recent months have seen an upswing in detentions, harassment, and attacks on lawyers involved in sensitive cases, while rampant abuse of detainees has led the nation's top investigative body to order a clamp down on torture and beatings.

Human rights groups also reported that Jiang had followed the banned Falun Gong spiritual practice, something Zhang and Jiang's daughter, Jiang Hong, would neither confirm or deny.

Authorities have relentlessly persecuted practitioners of the meditation sect since banning it as an evil cult in 1999. Followers say the crackdown has cost the lives of 3,200 practitioners, including 104 last year.

Despite such intimidation, a growing number of lawyers have agreed to represent sect followers or their families, a trend met with further violence and harassment. Beijing lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who took on several politically charged cases, including alleged persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, has been missing since February and is presumably in police custody.

Zhang said Jiang Xiqing died on Jan. 28, allegedly of a heart attack, although his body showed broken ribs and other signs of a beating.

"The city prosecutor explained that his ribs were broken during the emergency treatment. But we believe that is totally not true," Zhang said.

Reached by phone, Jiang Hong said authorities had not even told them why her father was being detained when they took him away in May of last year.

"They've never told us anything," Jiang said.

Calls to Chongqing police headquarters rang unanswered Thursday.