Beliefnet
BEIJING, April 13 (AP) - Three more followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement - detained during a crackdown by Chinese officials - have died, the group said Friday, bringing the number of reported deaths to 115.

Local officials confirmed two of the deaths Friday but denied they were due to mistreatment while in the hands of police.

Wang Xiujun, 37, died on Feb. 13 in eastern China's Shandong province after five months of detention and ``prolonged torture,'' the group's U.S. followers said in a written statement. She was held at a home for the elderly where the government rents rooms to hold Falun Gong members.

``The government always rents our rooms to educate Falun Gong practitioners. Wang Xiujun refused to eat or drink but kept practicing Falun Gong. Then she just died,'' said the staffer, who refused to give his name.

Another Falun Gong follower, Sun Hongyan of Liaozhong county in the northeast, was tortured for six months and died four days after she was released, the group said.

A Liaozhong county police officer, who gave only his surname, Huang, said Sun had died of lung disease on March 25, shortly after she was released from a Shenyang labor camp.

Other officials in Liaozhong declined to comment.

A third Falun Gong member, Zhang Zigen of Zhangjiakou city, died in police custody on Feb. 25, the group said.

Meanwhile, a court in the northern city of Xi'an has sentenced six members of another sect banned by the government, Guanyin Famen, or ``Way of the Goddess of Mercy,'' to prison terms of between three to eight years for ``using an evil cult to break the law,'' a local government official said.

The six people were also accused of conspiring with overseas cult organizations, organizing cult activities, printing and distributing cult publications and fraud, said the official, who said his surname was Jiang.

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