Police in southern China have imprisoned a farmer without trial for 10 years, at least five of them in a tiny cage where reporters found him naked and hungry.
The official Yangcheng Evening News published two photos showing Deng Qilu staring out from his cage, which is just slightly larger than a coffin and too small to stand up in.
Deng, said by the newspaper to be in his 40s, had a beard, no clothes, and what appeared to be iron shackles on his legs.
He gulped down food given to him by reporters who found him in the cage earlier this month, saying he hadn’t eaten in three days, the newspaper said in its Saturday edition.
China has been the frequent target of criticism by human rights groups overseas for detaining people for long periods without trial. But Deng’s case was particularly unusual.
Also unusual was the story’s appearance in a state-run newspaper. In recent years, China’s state-run media have been more aggressive in covering stories that are potentially embarrassing to authorities, but critical news accounts are still rare.
The newspaper said Deng was detained 10 years ago after he stabbed and wounded a police officer in southern Guangdong province. Officials did not hand him over for trial because they thought him mentally unstable, it said.
An officer with Xuwen county police said he had not heard of Deng’s case, but he denied that police were keeping him locked up.
“It’s possible his family locked him away,” said the officer, who gave only his surname, Shen.
The newspaper quoted Deng’s father, Deng Lichuan, as saying the cage stood next to a stinky drainage ditch outside the county police’s detention center until last summer.
Police then used a tractor to drag the cage to another village, where reporters found Deng. They said he appeared lucid at times, raving at others. Asked why he was imprisoned, Deng replied: “They won’t let me say,” the newspaper said.