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China court jails four security officials over watermelon vendor's death: Xinhua

Relatives and villagers carry the coffin of 56-year-old farmer Deng Zhengjia to a funeral in Linwu county, Hunan province July 19, 2013. REU
Relatives and villagers carry the coffin of 56-year-old farmer Deng Zhengjia to a funeral in Linwu county, Hunan province July 19, 2013. REU

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A Chinese court jailed four security officials for up to 11 years over the death of a watermelon vendor, the official Xinhua news agency reported, an incident that triggered public outcry over perceived abuses of power by city patrols.

Deng Zhengjia, 56, died after a fight with the security officials in the south-central province of Hunan in July. Deng and his wife had been trying to sell watermelons at a scenic spot by a river where such activity was apparently banned, according to Xinhua.

A court in Hunan found the four men guilty of intentionally assaulting Deng and sentenced them to jail terms ranging from three-and-a-half to 11 years, the report late on Friday said.

The security men, members of the "chengguan" that work with police across China to help enforce minor city rules and regulations, are derided by many Chinese as thuggish. Rights groups say they are poorly trained and supervised.

The poor reputation of the patrols has been further tarnished by several widely reported cases in which vendors or others were beaten, had goods confiscated, or were illegally detained or evicted.

The Hunan incident set off a torrent of online criticism and led to the dismissal of senior officials there.

The Chinese government is deeply concerned about stability and has shown growing sensitivity to public criticism.

(Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Paul Tait)

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