Friday, August 15, 2008

Prisoner of the Day No. 4

Ni Yulan, a 47-year-old lawyer, has spent a decade defending the rights of forcibly evicted residents. Ni's trial was scheduled to take place in Beijing on August 4, four days before the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"Ni Yulan is a courageous activist whose only crime has been to defend her rights and the rights of victims of forced evictions in Beijing," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "To try her on the eve of the Games is an extraordinary insult to those who lost their homes to the Beijing Olympics and shows contempt for human rights concerns raised by the international community."

Hundreds of thousands of residents have been evicted and their homes demolished in the course of Bejiing's Olympic makeover. These evictions rarely respected due process or the requirements under Chinese law for consultation or compensation. In some cases, residents were violently evicted by thugs and wrecking crews hired by the construction companies clearing sites for new buildings (for background, see Human Rights Watch's report, "Demolished: Forced Evictions and the Tenants' Rights Movement in China."

On April 15, 2008, without warning, more than a dozen workers and police knocked down the wall surrounding Ni's house in Qianzheng hutong, in the central Xicheng district of Beijing. According to her husband, Dong Jiqin, when Ni tried to protect her home, she was hit on head with a brick and dragged to the ground by one of the demolition workers. Police detained Ni and accused her of assaulting a demolition worker. According to information from China Human Rights Defender (CHRD), a Chinese human rights monitoring group, police at the Xinjiekou Police Station beat Ni until she lost consciousness. They also confiscated her crutches, without which she has extreme difficulty standing. On April 29, the Beijing Public Security Bureau of Xicheng district formally arrested her on charges of 'obstructing a public official' (Article 277 of the Criminal Law), a charge that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

Ni's lawyer was allowed to visit her in mid-June in detention and reported that, "She was in a very bad condition. She could hardly walk, she was very, very weak and deathly pale," he told overseas media. On June 30, Ni filed a complaint accusing the police of beating her in custody.

This was not Ni's first brush with the authorities over housing rights. In April 2002, Ni was detained for 75 days after she filmed the destruction of the house of an evicted tenant. While in detention, she was severely beaten, leaving her maimed and in need of crutches to walk. In September 2002, she was sentenced to a year in prison, losing her lawyer's license as a result. Undaunted, she continued to denounce illegal evictions and unfair compensations after her release.

Source: Human Rights Watch
Ni Yulan's Open Letter to Falun Gong

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