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Amnesty Int'l Charges Abuse of Power in China - 2002-08-06

A human rights group says reports are increasing in China of local officials abusing their power. It cites the recent death of a farmer, allegedly at the hands of police, and the ill-treatment of another farmer in prison.

Zeng Linglan, a farmer in Chongqing municipality in central China, last saw her brother alive less than two weeks ago.

Speaking by telephone from Chongqing, Ms. Zeng says her brother, Zeng Lingyun, went to the local police station on July 26 to retrieve his confiscated motorbike. The vehicle did not have the correct registration, and Mr. Zeng apparently was asked to pay a fine.

Ms. Zeng says the police two days later, summoned her to identify his dead body. She says his body was covered with blood, bruises and what she thinks was a bullet hole in the head. Ms. Zeng says the police never explained what happened to her brother. She says she may file a formal complaint, but is not sure if that would help her family.

According to human rights group Amnesty International, Ms. Zeng's story is unusually shocking, but illustrates an increasing number of reports about the abuse of power by local police.

"It seems as though Zeng Lingyun was actually only in violation of a minor traffic regulation, and he had the misfortune of what seems to be beaten and then shot to death," said Amnesty researcher Dominuqie Muller in Hong Kong. "And although it's not very common, these incidents do occur on a regular basis and are regularly reported."

Amnesty International also thinks that another farmer in Chongqing municipality, Yang Jiahua, has been abused by police in prison, and denied medical care. Ms. Muller says Mr. Yang and nine other farmers were arrested in 1999 for protesting corruption and excessive local taxes. Mr. Yang was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

"Many prisoners who go into prison in a relatively strong way actually become very vulnerable to ill health, especially people like Yang, who's in his mid-50s," Ms. Muller said.

Chinese state media have increasingly publicized the mistreatment of people in detention. Ms. Muller says it is unclear whether this reflects a rising number of cases, or a greater tendency by the government to admit that abuse takes place.

China faces widespread unrest in the countryside, as farmers complain about arbitrary and burdensome taxes imposed by local officials.