10/07/2013, 00.00
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Ni Yulan, disabled activist opposed to land grabs in China, has been released

The 54-year-old lawyer spent two and a half years in prison after being convicted on phoney charges. The authorities wanted to undermine her work on behalf of ordinary people. Now she wants compensation, accusing prison authorities of denying her proper medical care.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Chinese authorities released Ni Yulan two days ago after two and half years of detention. She is a disabled activist who has fought against land grabs and forced evictions. Now the 54-year-old lawyer accuses the Chinese prison system of denying her proper medical treatment and is seeking compensation for assets she lost to expropriation, including her home, which was torn down. Her husband, Dong Jiqin, who was detained with her, remains in prison.

The couple was arrested on 7 April 2011 during a government-led campaign against China's 'Arab Spring' on charges of causing  "noise" and yelling "insults " at the staff of Yuxinyuan Hotel, where the two were forced to stay in 2010 after their home was seized and demolished. The hotel is actually a 'black jail' where Ni was kept under control.

The government had charged her of failing to pay a bill of about 70,000 yuan. She was also accused of refusing to register the name of all the people who came to visit her in the hotel. Equally, Ni was accused of fraud for claiming to be a lawyer without proper qualifications.

For years, Ni Yulan defended the rights of people whose homes were expropriated or who were not justly compensated.

In 2002, while filming the demolition of a house of a client, police beat her so badly that she was disabled. She was later jailed.

In 2008, Ni fought for the families whose homes were destroyed to make way for hotels built for the Beijing Olympic Games. Even then she was beaten and eventually imprisoned.

As a result of her injuries, Ni could only crawl on the prison floor until a US Embassy official provided her with crutches following a visit to the facility.

Despite the persecution, she has not lost heart. "If we don't fight for rights, we will just have to wait for our death," she said immediately after her release.

"I want them to return my assets," she added. "They've torn down my home without giving any compensation, leaving us homeless."

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