In an appeal ruling on July 27, 2012, the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court overturned the “fraud” conviction of Ni Yulan (倪玉兰), the disabled rights advocate, but upheld her other conviction of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” The court reduced her two-year and eight-month prison term by two months. The court also upheld the “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” of Ni’s husband, Dong Jiqin (董继勤), who has been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
Ni had been a long-time housing rights advocate and was imprisoned twice previously, in 2002 and 2008. She lost the ability to walk after a severe beating she suffered during her second imprisonment, and is now wheelchair-bound. Her case has attracted international attention in recent years.
Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), one of the Ni’s two appeal lawyers, said that the lawyers are extremely dissatisfied with the ruling. Wang charged that “the ruling was pre-arranged, and the hearing was just going through the motion. . . . The fact that the public security, the procuratorate, and the judiciary worked together to find [them] guilty is beyond belief. If we lawyers had not presented compelling evidence [against the ‘fraud’ conviction], they would have upheld that conviction for sure.”
"The manipulated judgment is in total disregard for justice and fairness,” said Dong Xuan (董璇), the couple’s daughter. “‘Fraud’ was the most disgusting of charges against my mother, a direct smear of my mother's character." Dong Xuan attended the trial but was not able to speak with her parents.
Dong Xuan also said that at the end of today’s hearing, the Xicheng District Public Security Bureau did not allow her to do media interviews and that the police took her in a car to the outer suburbs of Changping, more than an hour's drive from Beijing. She was later released.
The current case against Ni and Dong arose after Ni was released from prison in 2010 at the end of her second prison sentence. After her release in April 2010, Ni found that her home had been demolished, so she and her husband began sleeping in a tent in a public park. Authorities relocated the couple to a room in a guesthouse after their homelessness attracted press and public attention, but then cut off their heat and electricity in the winter of 2011.
In February 2011, Jon Huntsman, then U.S. Ambassador to China, visited Ni and her husband. They were detained in April 2011 and tried in December that year for, among other charges, refusing to pay the sum of $69,972 yuan (US$11,073), which the prosecution alleged they owed the guesthouse for the room. Ni was also accused of faking her sad stories to obtain donations and of posing as a lawyer without proper credentials.
On April 10, 2012, the Xicheng District People’s Court convicted Ni and Dong. In addition to prison terms, the court fined Ni 1,000 yuan (US$159). The verdict was issued more than three months after the court accepted the case in December 2011, exceeding the one-month-and-a-half maximum period allowed by law. They appealed the verdict on April 13, 2012.
On July 15, 2012, lawyers filed a complaint on behalf of Ni against officials in the Xicheng District Public Security Bureau, the People’s Procuratorate, and employees of the guesthouse. Among the evidence included in the complaint is a series of 17 photos of Ni .They show her transition from a young, healthy professional in the 1990s, to the jobless, homeless, and disabled woman today due to persecution by authorities for defending the rights of others and herself.
Before starting rights defense work, Ni had worked as a legal professional for the China International Trade Company for more than 12 years. In 2001, when China won the Olympic bid, Beijing underwent large scale demolitions. She advocated for those impacted by the demolitions, gathered photographic evidence, and fought against the forced demolition of her own home.
The international community has continued to express concern for Ni and her husband. Ni was named the recipient of the 2011 Human Rights Defenders Tulip Award by the Dutch government in December 2011, just one week before she and Dong were tried. Most recently, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Michael Posner, raised her case with the Chinese delegation during the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue that concluded on July 24, 2012.
For more information on Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin, see: