SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese prosecutors have dropped charges against five police following the death of an environmentalist in custody in May, the official China Daily said on Saturday, a case that sparked public disquiet about China's law enforcement methods.

Lei Yang, 29, was arrested in a massage parlor as part of a police operation against prostitution and died hours later after choking on his own vomit.

While no charges will be pressed against the police officers, the Beijing People's Procuratorate accepted they used excessive force to arrest Lei, and ruled that their misconduct had a "direct causal relationship" with his death, the China Daily said.

The officers also failed to perform emergency lifesaving procedures or take Lei to hospital and obstructed an enquiry by falsifying evidence, but prosecutors ruled that their misdemeanors were "minor".


Four of the suspects had been released on bail, while a fifth remained in custody, the newspaper said. It cited Beijing police as saying that the five officers would be punished in accordance with regulations.

The case sparked a public outcry earlier this year when Lei's wife cast doubt on the results of a police investigation into her husband's death, with hundreds of comments on social media lambasting the lack of oversight and transparency in Chinese law enforcement.

The UN Committee Against Torture last December expressed its concerns about the mistreatment of detainees in China's police stations and prisons, claiming "the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system".

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Nick Macfie)