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A mentally ill man has been freed from a cage where he was held for at least five years by police in southern China after stabbing an officer, an official newspaper said.

Photographs published Sunday by the Yangcheng Evening News showed Deng Qilu being fed through the bars of the small cage before his release, and being led away by white-coated mental health workers.

Deng, who is in his 40s, was detained 10 years ago after he stabbed and wounded a police officer in Xuwen County, in southern Guangdong province, the newspaper said. It said officials did not hand him over for trial because they thought him mentally unstable.

Investigators from the nearby city of Zhanjiang visited the village police station Saturday and concluded Deng suffers from schizophrenia, the newspaper said.

What prompted authorities to take action was not clear. But the Yangcheng Evening News, one of China's most prominent newspapers, published an expose on Deng's case a day earlier and demanded to know why he was being held under such conditions.

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