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( – One man was beaten to death and 90 worshippers arrested in the northeastern province of Heilongjian during a crackdown on an underground Protestant church, a US religious rights group says. Li Shixiong, chairman of the US-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China , said government officials were trying to suppress the Three Grades of Servant church, which authorities saw as being second only to Falun Gong in terms of its threat. Authorities are said to have declared the church illegal and “evil” as early as 1999. It claims to have several million members. The committee says the church’s spiritual leader, Xu Shuangfu, has been abducted and is being held by police. Authorities have accused Mr Xu of deifying himself and collecting money from church members. The group said Mr Xu was abducted by people driving a police jeep as he was making his way to Harbin airport on April 17. A spokesman for the Heilongjiang Public Security Bureau denied Mr Xu was being held and claimed to have no knowledge of the case. The committee said 90 other church members were arrested after Mr Xu’s abduction. Meanwhile, another church member, Gu Xianggao, 28, died in the custody of Harbin police on April 26. Officers initially told his family that he had been detained on suspicion of robbery and murder, according to his sister, Gu Xiangyan. But Ms Gu said that when family members traveled to Harbin early this month, they were told he had been arrested for being a member of the church.