4-17-2012By Rasika Teredesai
Human Rights Defenders
Last Tuesday, Chinese authorities continued their persecution of human rights activists by sentencing Ni Yulan to two years and eight months in prison. A housing rights activist, she has been detained several times since 2001, and as a result of torture, has to use to a wheel chair.
On April 7, 2011, she was detained with her husband, Dong Jiqin, for “creating a disturbance” after allegations that the couple had destroyed a registration book and insulted the staff at their guest house. This detention was part of a post-Arab Spring crackdown by the Chinese government in an attempt to quash a potential “Jasmine Revolution.”
She was also accused of “fraud” because authorities argued that she claimed to be a lawyer despite revocation of her business license. Authorities revoked her license because she had aided victims of forced evictions in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Ni and Dong’s case did not appear before the court until December 29, 2011. Then, on April 10, 2012, at a hearing that only lasted ten minutes, Ni was sentenced to prison for two years and eight months, Dong to two years. Both their pre-conviction detention of more than a year and the nearly four month delay in sentencing violate Chinese law.
This conviction is only the government’s latest attempt to silence her. Authorities convicted her in 2002 and 2008 for “obstructing official business” because she was protecting the rights of the forcibly evicted, including herself. Her house was also demolished in 2008.
As the international director for Chinese Human Rights Defenders stated, this recent verdict against Ni Yulan is a “defiant” message to the world that China has “nothing but disdain for human rights.”
The United States must demonstrate its support for activists such as Ni Yulan by demanding the release of all peaceful political prisoners.