China Jails Disabled Rights Activist

Posted April 10th, 2012 at 12:25 am (UTC-5)
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China has sentenced disabled human rights lawyer Ni Yulan to two years and eight months in prison on charges of causing a disturbance and committing fraud.

A Beijing court sentenced the veteran activist on Tuesday. Her husband, Dong Jiqin, was also jailed for two years on similar charges.

Ni and Dong deny the charges. Their supporters say they were targeted in order to silence their criticism of the government.

The two are known for providing legal assistance to residents facing forced evictions from their homes without adequate compensation.

They were arrested a year ago as part of a wider crackdown on political dissent following anonymous online calls for protests in China after a series of uprisings in Arab countries.

Outside the heavily guarded courtroom in suburban Beijing, European Union official Raphael Droszewski read a statement expressing “deep concern” about the sentences and calling for Ni's immediate release.

“The delegation of the European Union in China is deeply concerned by news of the sentence handed down to human rights defenders Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin. The EU firmly upholds the rights of a person to address any human rights on behalf of individuals or groups, as enshrined in the United Nations declaration on human rights defenders.”

He also said the EU is “preoccupied with the deterioration of the situation for human rights defenders in China,” and will continue to closely monitor such cases.

The 51-year-old Ni was also jailed in 2002 and 2008 for “obstructing official business” and “harming public property” after fighting against the government acquisition of her home in Beijing. She says she was tortured while in prison and is now wheelchair-bound.

She was forced to recline on a bed because of poor health at her four-hour court hearing in December, which was closed to the press and foreign diplomats.

It is the latest in a series of lengthy prison terms given to Chinese human rights activists and other dissidents, as China cracks down on dissent ahead of a rare leadership transition later in the year.