BEIJING (AP) -- Falun Gong said police in an eastern Chinese city have gang-raped detained female followers of the group, but a police official on Monday denied the claim. Falun Gong claimed the assaults in Xintai were officially authorized parts of the government campaign to destroy the spiritual group. A police officer at the Xintai Public Security bureau said the report was not true. "It's impossible for such a thing to have happened. We've noticed that many rumors about torture on Falun Gong members were widely spread overseas, but they are all fabricated," said the officer, who would give only his surname, Li. The Xintai city government and its judicial bureau refused to comment. A statement faxed to reporters by Falun Gong said a special task force in Xintai stripped women, beat them with bamboo sticks and shocked them with electric batons. The group's statement didn't say when the assaults took place or how many women were involved. "Many female practitioners' hands and feet were cuffed and raped by police in the vehicles," said the statement. "Afterwards, a local police even boasted about such an action during his casual conversation." The group also said officials stripped 18 women and threw them into cells full of male prisoners at a labor camp in Shenyang, the capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning. Falun Gong drew millions of members during the 1990s with its mix of Eastern philosophies and regime of meditation and light exercise. Beijing banned the sect in 1999 as an "evil cult," worried that its size and organizational strength could challenge communist rule. Thousands of followers have been sent to labor camps, where officials say they are given counseling to persuade them to leave the group.