Beijing -- China's state media on Friday accused the Falun Gong spiritual sect of lying when it claimed in a U.S. lawsuit that Chinese police beat two followers to death.
The suit filed in court in New York accused a senior provincial police official of killing the pair in custody.
But prominent reports carried Friday on state television and many state newspapers denied that police abuse was to blame. The reports said Peng Min, 27, died April 5 after he smashed his head on the bars of his cell, apparently in a suicide attempt. Peng had been in detention almost a year for organizing Falun Gong gatherings and producing and distributing sect promotional materials.
His mother, Li Yingxiu, 56, died of a brain hemorrhage April 29 in a hospital, the reports said. The reports did not say whether she had been in custody also.
"Lies will never save the 'Falun Gong' cult from doom. The attempt to stir up an incident has become a farce and ended in vain," the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said.
The Falun Gong suit blamed Zhao Zhifei, deputy head of police in the central province of Hubei, for the deaths. Zhao was served papers at his hotel during a visit to New York in July.
Under U.S. law, foreigners accused of crimes against humanity or violations of international law can be sued in federal court if they are served a civil complaint in the United States.
The Chinese media has reported that the suit was filed by Peng Liang, the brother and son of the victims and himself a Falun Gong follower. But they have said Falun Gong tricked Peng into filing the suit and rewrote his statements to accuse the police official of killing his brother and mother.
Chinese authorities have pursued Falun Gong followers since the government outlawed the group in July 1999. The government says Falun Gong is an evil cult that hoodwinked followers and caused more than 1,600 deaths, mostly by encouraging followers to use meditation instead of medicine to cure ailments.
Falun Gong says almost 300 followers have died in custody during the crackdown and that many more have been tortured and abused. Thousands of followers have been sent to prisons and labor camps.