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China investigates prison management after 15 'unnatural' deaths

CHINA'S chief prosecuting body today began a five-month campaign to ensure proper management of detention centers, which have reported 15 "unnatural" deaths so far this year.

The figure was confirmed by Yin Yi, an official with Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) media office in a phone interview with Xinhua today.

Seven of the 15 detainees were beaten to death, three committed suicide and two died in accidents. The other three cases were still under investigation. The cases occurred in 12 provinces.

The campaign, jointly launched by the SPP and the Ministry of Public Security, focuses on cracking down on "inmate bullying" and investigating all "unnatural" deaths since 2006 and how officials handled them, SPP deputy procurator Sun Qian told an SPP video conference on Friday.

"Improper management on the part of police departments and slack supervision of prosecuting organizations are both causes for unnatural deaths in prisons," an SPP spokesperson said at the meeting.

The government urged prosecuting organizations to send responsible and professional supervisors to detention centers to monitor police work.

The SPP and the Ministry of Public Security would cooperate in setting up an information network linking supervision offices with detention centers to monitor prisoners in real time.

A spate of unnatural deaths in detention centers across the nation shocked the Chinese public in recent months, sparking concern over the management of these centers by the police department.

The death of 24-year-old Li Qiaoming at the Jinning detention house, in south China's Yunnan Province, in February was the first case brought to public attention. An investigation determined that other inmates had beaten Li to death.

On March 8, 19-year-old Xu Gengrong died in a detention center in west China's Shaanxi Province, on the seventh day of his detention.

On March 27, 50-year-old Li Wenyan allegedly died in the middle of a "nightmare", according to the head of a detention department in Jiujiang of the eastern Jiangxi Province.

In early April, the Ministry of Public Security started a three-month campaign to educate police officers at prisons and detention centers on professional ethics, legal awareness and respect for human rights.

"Officials should have the courage to reveal problems in the management of prisons and detention centers, and should redouble efforts to address them," said a ministry statement.


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