Beijing (AsiaNews) - The human rights activist Ni Yulan and her husband Dong Jiqin (pictured) were sentenced today to prison for causing "disturbances" and "fraud". The court has imposed two years and eight months on Ni Yulan, a lawyer with disabilities the result of police beatings, and two years on her husband who helped to vindicate the rights of people who were unfairly dispossessed of land or houses .
The convictions of Ni and her husband are the latest in a series launched by the Communist Party to suppress the growing civil society movement in recent years and which since last year is being targeted with thousands of arrests to prevent the birth of an " Arab Spring "in China.
The Xicheng District Court took just 10 minutes to issue and read the sentence. At least 100 policemen surrounded the area not to allow friends and relatives to take part in the session. Dozens of diplomats also had to wait outside to hear the judgment. Only Ni's daughter, Dong Xuan, could enter the courtroom and said the trial was "abnormal". The couple's lawyer, Cheng Hai, said he will appeal.
Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin were arrested April 7, 2011, during the campaign against the "Arab Spring" in China. He is accused of creating "noise" and "screaming insults" against Yuxinyuan staff, where the couple were forced to take shelter in 2010, after their house was seized and destroyed. The hotel was actually a "black jail", where Ni was kept under control. The Government accused them of failing to pay a bill of around 70 thousand Yuan. Another of the allegations against them is that they refused to record all the people who came to visit in the hotel register.
Ni has been accused of "fraud" for claiming to be a lawyer, to gain financial benefits.
For years, Ni Yulan, 51, has defended the rights of people whose homes have been expropriated or who have not received just compensation. In 2002, while filming the demolition of a house of a customer, police savagely beat her in making disability and imprisoned here. In 2008, Ni fought for the families whose homes were destroyed to make way for hotels in the Olympic Games in Beijing. Even then she was beaten and imprisoned. Because of her injuries. Ni could only crawl on the floor of the prison, until a member of the U.S., after having visited, gave her crutches.
Freed in 2010, she was again imprisoned a year ago.
One of the diplomats in court this morning, Raphael Droszewski, from the European Union (EU), said: "We are very concerned about the health of Mrs. Ni and ask for her immediate release." He also said the EU was "concerned about the deteriorating situation in the defense of human rights in China."
The growth of convictions and arrests takes place almost concurrently with the sweet promises made by Premier Wen Jiabao to the National People's Congress about a month ago. Wen said it is necessary to defend land rights and that it is necessary and urgent to launch a series of political reforms.