Chinese Rights Lawyer Goes On Trial

Posted December 28th, 2011 at 6:55 pm (UTC-5)
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A Chinese human rights lawyer and activist known for her fight against government land grabs is scheduled to go on trial in Beijing.

News reports from the capital say the trial for Ni Yulan and her husband Dong Jiqin on charges of creating public disturbance will begin Thursday.

Ni has been jailed earlier because of her activism on behalf of Chinese farmers who are forced from their land without adequate compensation to make room for development projects. She was tortured while in prison and is wheelchair-bound. She has lived in a tent after being evicted from her home and is barred from practicing law.

Ni's trial comes a day after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged government officials to protect land rights of farmers and give them a better compensation when their land is taken over for development. He spoke after authorities in southern Guangdong province gave in to villagers protesting what they called illegal land seizures.

In recent months, several local communities have staged protests against government plans to turn their farms into pollution-spewing factories and leaving them with inadequate sources of income.

The Chinese government has stepped up its campaign against dissenters in recent months, especially after a series of Arab revolutions toppled governments in the Middle East.

Two human rights activists were handed lengthy prison sentences just this month and Ni could be the third. In addition, two weeks ago another human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was sent back to prison for three years after a court ruled that he had violated terms of his probation. Dissenters are usually convicted of subversion or disturbing the peace.

The Dutch government last week announced that its 2011 Human Rights Defenders Tulip award goes to Ni Yulan.