Cases of police abuse have surged in Henan as millions of jobless farmers have returned home after factory closures in coastal regions. At least five suspects have 'died abnormally' during police interrogations or in custody since October, a death toll that is 'shockingly' high even in the notorious public-security sector, where mistreatment and torture-induced confessions are common, according to Oriental Outlook, a weekly magazine run by Xinhua. At the end of September, 436 cases of police abuse had been opened in the province, an increase of more than 15 per cent on last year, according to a statement by the provincial Department of Public Security dated October 29. The same phenomenon was occurring in Jiangxi , another labour-exporting province, according to a policeman in Shangrao . 'We beat suspects all the time, but in recent months there are more criminals than ever, and some colleagues have lost their temper,' he said. 'Some returning young men have been exposed to the outside world, and they are less obedient.' The death of Du Xuelei , a 22-year-old Hebei villager, exemplified how a deprived economic situation can lead to deadly conflict between police and rural residents. Du, a truck driver, decided to go to Chuwang, a town in Henan, to buy a second-hand tractor to start a farming business with friends. They dined at a restaurant in Chuwang on October 3 and left without paying. One of them was arrested, and Du went to the police station to bail him out. Witnesses told The Beijing News that Du argued with the officers, who forced him to the ground and took turns kicking him in the head. He was dead before he was sent to hospital. The public security bureau of Anyang arrested five people but only one was a police officer. The others were 'contracted employees' who had no training. There were 1.8 million police last year, an increase of only 1 per cent from 2005. To handle increasing social conflicts, police stations often employ security staff on temporary contracts. A policeman who refused to be named said many were 'the scum of society themselves'. 'Parents who have some connection with the bureau chief like to get jobs for their trouble-making children at police stations,' he said. 'Plus, sometimes hooligans are more effective in maintaining social order than university graduates.'