Authorities Try Human Rights Activist Ni Yulan, Verdict Pending

January 6, 2012

Authorities tried human rights lawyer Ni Yulan and her husband Dong Jiqin on December 29, 2011, on charges of "picking quarrels" and "fraud." The court reportedly is considering the defense's request for access to new evidence. If convicted, Ni could face a lengthy sentence and the possibility of life imprisonment. Since 2002, authorities have repeatedly subjected Ni to intense harassment, including physically crippling her, revoking her license to practice law, and detaining and imprisoning her.

According to the New York Times and Human Rights in China, on December 29, 2011, authorities tried dissident human rights lawyer Ni Yulan and her husband Dong Jiqin on charges of "picking quarrels" and "fraud" under China's Criminal Law. Their lawyer entered a not guilty plea and requested access to new evidence, which the Xicheng District Court reportedly has taken under consideration. According to Ni and Dong's indictment (Chinese), the underlying charges stem from the couple's alleged refusal to pay for their hotel room, arguments with hotel staff, and Ni's alleged misrepresentation of facts surrounding her case and herself as a lawyer for the purpose of defrauding money from others.

According to Human Rights in China, authorities prevented some witnesses for the defense from testifying in court by preventing them from leaving their homes. In addition, authorities also detained Ni and Dong's supporters around Beijing. The couple's daughter was able to testify in court on behalf of the couple for approximately 10 minutes.

If convicted, Ni could face a lengthy sentence. According to China's Criminal Law (Chinese), the crime of "picking quarrels" (Article 293) causing societal discord is punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment plus fines. The crime of "fraud" (Article 266) is punishable by up to 3 years for "relatively large sums," 3 to 10 years for "large sums or other serious circumstances," and up to life imprisonment for "very large sums or especially serious circumstances." According to the indictment, authorities are seeking to punish Ni as a "recidivist" based on Article 65 of the Criminal Law.

Ni garnered international attention for her advocacy work on behalf of residents adversely affected by the Chinese government's efforts to demolish homes in light of the then upcoming 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Detained while trying to take photographic evidence, authorities eventually sentenced Ni for "obstruction of official business" in 2002 to one year, and for the same crime in 2008 for two years. While in custody, authorities beat Ni, permanently crippling her. Since her release, authorities have continuously harassed Ni and Dong, employing tactics such as detention, cutting off electricity and water, and revoking Ni's license to practice law. For the currently alleged offenses, authorities detained Ni in April 2011 amidst the harsh crackdown against human rights activists and lawyers that began in February 2011.