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China: Beaten Activist to Be Tried on Eve of Olympics

July 31, 2008

Case Spotlights Crackdown on Critics
For Immediate Release
Human Rights Watch
July 29, 2008

New York -- The Chinese government should immediately release the
housing rights activist Ni Yulan and drop all charges against her,
Human Rights Watch said today. Ni Yulan's trial is scheduled to take
place in Beijing on August 4, four days before the opening of the
2008 Beijing Olympics on August 8.

Ni, a 47-year-old lawyer, has spent a decade defending the rights of
forcibly evicted residents.

"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 Beijing'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," at:
http://hrw.org/reports/2004/china0304/index.htm).

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.

In 2004, with two fellow housing rights activists, Ye Guozhu and
Zheng Mingfang, she applied for a permit to hold a demonstration in
Beijing. The authorities responded by detaining Ye, and sending
police to Ni and Zheng. Ye was sentenced to four years in prison in
2004 on charges of "disrupting social order." On July 26, 2008, he
completed his sentence, but was taken away directly from the prison
by the police, who told his family that Ye will be detained until at
least October 1, after the end of the 2008 Olympic Games.

"Ni's case shows the price that ordinary people pay in China's
'harmonious society' when they try to defend their rights," said
Richardson. "If George Bush, Nicholas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown and other
world leaders attending the Games fail to publicly call on the
Chinese leadership to release Ni Yulan and the hundreds of other
courageous government critics now languishing in prison, they will in
effect have endorsed these gross abuses."

* * * * * * *
Chronology of Ni Yulan's Case

July 13, 2001:
Beijing wins the bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. Extensive plans
to remodel the city entail the eviction of hundreds of thousands of
residents and their relocation in peripheral suburbs. Ni Yulan, a
40-year-old lawyer who lives in a traditional alley in the center of
Beijing, on 19, Qianzhang hutong, just off Xizhimen Wai Dajie,
devotes increasing efforts to the defense of tenants' rights.

April 27, 2002:
Ni is beaten up and taken into police custody for filming the forced
demolition of a Beijing home. She is detained for 75 consecutive
days, and while in detention is severely beaten, leaving her unable
to walk without a cane or crutches.

September 27, 2002:
Ni is arrested when petitioning the Beijing National People's
Congress Standing Committee about having been beaten in police
custody. She is charged with "obstructing public duty" and sentenced
to one year in prison. As a result of her criminal conviction, she
loses her professional lawyer's license and the right to practice her
profession.

2003-2004:
Upon her release, and despite ongoing official harassment and
retaliation, Ni continues to help petitioners and those who face
forced eviction in Beijing.

August 2004:
Police detain Ni and fellow housing right activist Ye Guozhu after
they file an application to hold a demonstration to protect tenants
from abusive forced evictions in Beijing
(http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/09/28/china9400.htm). Ni is
quickly released, but Ye is charged in September 2005 and sentenced
to four years of imprisonment.

September 9, 2005:
Ni co-signs a collective letter to Louise Arbour, the United Nations'
High Commissioner on Human Rights, on the eve of her visit to
Beijing. The letter calls for her attention to serious, ongoing human
rights violations in China.

November 16, 2005:
Police warn Ni against leaving her home during President Bush's visit
to China. Two days later, she is assaulted by unidentified men as she
takes a walk in a nearby park. She is taken into custody by the
police after reporting the attack.

March 2007:
Ni is put under house arrest during the meeting in Beijing of the
National People's Congress.

April 15, 2008:
Police and workers from a demolition crew knock down a wall
surrounding Ni's house. She is hit on the head by a brick and dragged
to the ground by one of the workers. Ni is taken away by the police
for a "false report" about the assault against her and put in
detention the Police Station of Xicheng district. Her husband Dong
Jiqin is also detained for several days.

April 29, 2008:
Ni is formally arrested under the charge of "obstructing public duty"
(weihai gongwu zui, article 274 of the Criminal law of the People's
Republic of China). The crime is punishable by up to three years of
imprisonment.

June 13, 2008:
Ni's lawyer, Hu Xiao, from the prominent Mo Shaoping law firm, is
able to visit her at the detention center of Xicheng District. She
tells him she has been beaten by police during her detention there.

June 30, 2008:
Ni lodges a complaint accusing police of beating her in custody.
According to her lawyer, Hu Xiao, "She was in a very bad condition
when I saw her, she could hardly walk, and she was very, very weak
and deathly pale."

July 26, 2008:
Upon his release from prison on July 26, 2008, Ye Guozhu is
immediately detained by the police, who inform his family that he
will remain in their custody until at least October 1, 2008, after
the Olympics are over.

August 4, 2008:
Trial due to take place at Xicheng People's Court, Courthouse #13, 12
Beilishilu, Xicheng District, Beijing (???????12?).

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the human rights situation
in China ahead of the Beijing Olympics, please visit:
http://china.hrw.org

For more information, please contact:
In Hong Kong, Nicholas Bequelin (English, French, Mandarin):
+852-8198-1040 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin):
+1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-790-872-8333 (mobile)
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