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2 teens died in detention
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The deaths of two juveniles over four days at a provincial juvenile reformaotry in Hunan last month were a coincidence, officials have said.

"The two juveniles died of natural causes. The reformatory staff is not guilty of dereliction of duty," Huang Chunyang, head of Hunan Prison Administrative Bureau, was quoted as saying by Beijing-based Oriental Outlook Weekly.

"Two deaths in four days was just a coincidence," a staff member at the reformatory, who refused to give his name, told China Daily yesterday. "We made our best efforts to save their lives."

Xiao Haixing, 19, died from multiple organ failure caused by a serious skin disease on March 3 in a hospital in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, according to Xiangya Hospital.

Qiu Xiaolong, 18, was found unconscious in his cell on March 6 and was declared dead due to respiratory failure at the reformatory hospital the same day.

Xiao Haixing had been sentenced to five years in the reformatory in January 2007 for burglary.

His father suspected Xiao might be mentally ill in October 2008, but his requests for medical parole for his son were denied as reformatory authorities believed Xiao's condition was not serious.

The reformatory said they had been aware of Xiao's mental problem since November 2008 and he had been taken to hospitals both inside and outside the reformatory for treatment 22 times from September 2008 to March 2009, according to an official report explaining the deaths of the two teen inmates.

Oriental Outlook Weekly said Xiao's father noticed the body of his son had a large open wound on his thigh and his wrists were black and blue.

Xiao also told his brother he was assaulted by the reformatory staff, said the Weekly.

The other teen, Qiu Xiaolong, would have been freed in October this year after serving his two-and-a-half-year sentence for robbing an Internet cafe.

Qiu suffered from asthma and chronic wasting disease. He was sent to the reformatory hospital on February 17 and believed to be healthy after being discharged on March 2, said the authority's report.

Qiu's father told Oriental Outlook Weekly that a hand mark could be seen on Qiu's neck.

The autopsies of the two teen inmates' bodies showed no traces of fatal trauma, concluding the deaths occurred under normal circumstances.

But the authority didn't comment on the 10-cm wound on Xiao Haixing's head and the multiple bruises on his body described in the autopsy report.

Judicial testimony of the two cases is yet to be made. The Hunan provincial department of justice and the procuratorate have joined the investigation.

Calls for greater protection of inmates were made at China's National People's Congress early this month after a Chinese prisoner was confirmed beaten to death by fellow inmates this February.

(China Daily April 1, 2009)

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