ChinaAid Commentary: Beijing Shocks World With Sentencing of Human Rights Lawyer Ni Yulan and Husband

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

China Aid Association

(Beijing—April 10, 2012) In a shocking decision, a Beijing court on Tuesday sentenced award-winning human rights lawyer Ni Yulan and her husband to prison terms of two-years, eight-months and two years, respectively, for fraud and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in a trial that ChinaAid considers to be totally unjust. image[2]

(File photo of Ni Yulan and her husband Dong Jiqin)

Ni and her husband Dong Jiqin have been held in detention for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for more than a year already, and the couple was tried last December in court proceedings that ended with no judgment or sentence announced.

On Tuesday morning, the Beijing Xicheng District Court announced that the couple was guilty of “fraud and picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” The couple’s daughter Dong Xuan told ChinaAid that the conviction and sentences were a fait accompli. As soon as her parents entered the courtroom shortly after the hearing began at 9 a.m., the court announced the conviction and sentences, which were read from already prepared typed documents. Then the court announced the close of the hearing without giving the defense lawyer any opportunity at all to defend Ni and Dong.
Dong Xuan said this was a grossly unjust legal outcome.

The couple’s lawyer, Cheng Hai, said after the hearing that the court’s decision was entirely without any basis and that Ni was innocent and should be immediately released. He added that the Xicheng District Court had held the couple for more than the legally allowed one-week period, constituting a violation of proper legal procedures. He said that the couple did not accept the court’s decision and probably would appeal within 10 days.

Cheng said the charges stemmed from Ni and Dong’s refusal to pay the bill at the guesthouse that they were forcibly taken to by police and forced by police to stay in. The lawyer added that even if the unpaid bill were a legitimate issue, it should be handled as a civil dispute case, not a criminal case. As to “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” Cheng pointed out that both Ni and Dong are elderly and Ni is wheelchair-bound, making them unlikely to be able to create much trouble for the guesthouse staff.

Furthermore, on the allegation of pretending to be a lawyer to “commit fraud,” Cheng said that Ni had merely responded to the request of some people for legal advice and was not practicing law. The money she received were tokens of appreciation freely given by some people she had helped, and there was nothing at all illegal about what she had done.

Dong Xuan said she was able to see her parents in the courtroom and her parents asked how she was doing. She said her mother, who is a Christian, had lost a lot of weight and was pitifully thin.

Dong Xuan added that she is grateful to all who have expressed concern about her situation and said that there was no need to worry because she is able to take care of herself now and is living with relatives.

ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu was shocked when he heard the news of Tuesday’s court proceedings. He said, “This is a serious setback. Ni Yulan, a lawyer who has been a long-time advocate of using the law to defend one’s rights and citizens’ rights, represented the hope for the rule of law in China and for China’s legal system. She was also an example for all of China’s human rights and rights defense lawyers.

“The Beijing government is systematically putting into jail or holding under house arrest all the influential lawyers, from Gao Zhisehng to Fan Yafeng, as well as blind [legal activist] Chen Guangcheng and now Ni Yulian—and has even implicated her husband Dong Jiqin,” Fu said.

He said the Beijing court’s decision was yet another embarrassment on the part of the Chinese authorities, but added that the international community would not be without blame if it sees this blatant act of trampling on internationally recognized human rights and does nothing.

At the same time, Fu expressed thanks to the individuals, legislatures and governments of the United States and the European Union for the concern they had already shown for Ni’s case and their efforts to push the Chinese authorities to release her.

“Your efforts have not been in vain—they have also been entered into China’s historical records,” Fu said. He added, “May God bless the persecuted [Chinese] warriors.”

Ni, a well-known human rights lawyer and Christian from Beijing, started in 2002 to expose the forced demolition of housing in Beijing in advance of the 2008 Olympics Games and was sentenced to a one-year prison term for it.  She was so brutally beaten that her legs were permanently disabled. On Feb. 11, 2011, John Huntsman, then U.S. ambassador to China, visited Ni and had a picture taken with her. On April 6, Ni and her husband were taken into custody by Beijing Xicheng district police for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and the Xicheng district procuratorate approved her formal arrest. image[5]Around July 13, the charge of “fraud” was added to her alleged crimes.  She was tried on Dec. 29 in Xicheng District Court, but the outcome was not announced.

(Photo: The Tulip statuette awarded to Ni Yulan.)

The Dutch government announced on Dec. 22 that its 2011 Human Rights Defenders Tulip award was going to Ni Yulan.  She had been nominated for the prize by China Aid Association and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The award ceremony was held on Jan. 31, but Ni’s daughter Dong Xuan, who wanted to go to the Hague to receive the award on her mother’s behalf, was blocked by Chinese authorities from leaving the country.

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