BEIJING, Oct. 19 (AP)--A Chinese Protestant arrested while worshipping at an illegal service has died in a central China jail after being beaten and then denied medical care, and two Falun Gong movement who sued China's president are missing, according to reports Thursday.
Police detained Liu Haitong in a raid on a private home serving as an underground church in Henan province's Xiayi county on Sept. 4, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
Beaten by police and left weakened by the prison's inadequate food and poor hygiene, Liu began vomiting and developed a high fever, the center said. It reported that the 19-year-old died in the county jail on Oct. 16 after police refused to provide medical care.
The report could not be independently verified. A man who answered the phone at the jail refused to comment on the case, saying such information could be given out only in person. But Chinese authorities have in recent months renewed a 2-year-old campaign against people worshipping outside the state-backed Catholic and non-denominational Protestant churches.
Henan has been at the center of the crackdown. The province is home to thriving Protestant house churches--so called because they are often private homes--and the movement is serviced by evangelical preachers, including some who are foreigners.
Henan Protestants who informed the Hong Kong group about Liu's death blamed police and demanded a stop to such repression, the report said without identifying its sources.
The crackdown, however, is likely to intensify following decisions made last week at an annual meeting of the ruling Communist Party's elite, the center said.
Immediately after the meeting, Public Security Minister Jia Chunwang ordered police to target members of cults, separatists and ``religious extremists.'' The latter phrase, the center said, is code for people worshipping outside official churches. Meanwhile, two members of the Falun Gong spiritual sect who were detained after suing Chinese President Jiang Zemin for banning the group have mysteriously disappeared, followers in Hong Kong said.
The Falun Gong adherents said they don't know what happened to Chu O-ming or Wang Jie, who were missing in mainland China.
Falun Gong followers and human rights groups have made numerous allegations of other adherents dying while in custody in China. But Sharon Xu, a spokeswoman for Falun Gong in Hong Kong, said sect members were not immediately assuming the worst for Chu and Wang.
``We don't know, but it's possible,'' Xu said. ``It is not very favorable for Mr. Chu or Mr. Wang. We're very concerned.''
Falun Gong is banned in mainland China but remains legal in Hong Kong, where citizens enjoy considerably more freedom under a largely autonomous local government.
Falun Gong said Chu, a Hong Kong resident who worked as a furniture dealer in Beijing, and Wang, who worked in a mapmaking bureau there, were illegally detained more than a month ago after they mailed their lawsuit against Jiang and two aides to the Chinese courts.
Xu said Chu's relatives in Beijing were notified Saturday that he had been released at 10 p.m. the night before from the Fang Shan Detention Center in southwestern Beijing and that they should come to the detention center to pick up his personal belongings.
But Chu did not contact his family, and when relatives went to the detention center asking what had happened, they were told only that he was no longer there.
The Falun Gong followers said they obtained their information from reliable contacts on the mainland, although they refused to elaborate out of fear those people would suffer retaliation.
Wang is also no longer at the detention center in Beijing, according to the Falun Gong adherents in Hong Kong. They said they were unaware of any contacts between the Chinese authorities and any relatives of Wang.
Falun Gong has attracted millions of followers, most of them in China, with its combination of meditative physical exercises and its philosophy drawn from Taoism, Buddhism and the often unorthodox ideas of founder Li Hongzhi.
The Beijing leadership outlawed the sect after being startled by the ability of its adherents to organize massive gatherings in China that the leaders feared could threaten the government's hold on power.