Beijing Housing Rights Activist Ni Yulan Sentenced to Two Years

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, December 18, 2008) – a Beijing-based housing rights activist and former lawyer, Ni Yulan (倪玉兰), was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for “obstructing official business” by Xicheng District Court in Beijing.

According to Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch (CRLW), only four people were permitted to attend the trial which began at 9 a.m. Apart from Ni’s daughter, the rest who attended were court officials. Ni’s husband and family and thirty petitioners in support of the activist were barred from attending even though two members of Ni’s family had obtained a permit to attend the trial.

Ni’s family originally hired a lawyer to represent her, but Ni’s husband, Dong Jiqin (董继勤), later decided to represent Ni himself. The court refused the request, however, because Dong is one of the “stakeholders” to the case. Ni’s daughter also requested to represent Ni at the trial but her request was refused. When Ni defended herself at the trial, she was repeatedly interrupted by the judge.

Ni’s family has not yet decided whether or not to appeal.

CHRD calls the trial a travesty of justice and calls on the Chinese government to initiate an independent investigation into Ni’s allegation that she was tortured in detention.

CHRD believes that Ni has been detained solely for peacefully assisting fellow citizens in defending their human rights. The authorities have abused Ni’s rights to freedom of association and adequate housing, guaranteed in, respectively, Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which China has signed and ratified. The right to defend human rights is guaranteed in the Declaration to Protect Human Rights Defenders, which China endorsed in 1999. The right to freedom of association is also guaranteed in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.


Ni, 47, is known for her work assisting many victims of forced eviction in Beijing. Ni worked as a lawyer for 18 years. On April 27, 2002, for filming the forced demolition of a Beijing home, Ni was reportedly beaten by police. The beating left the former lawyer disabled–she is unable to walk without crutches. On September 27, 2002, Ni was arrested when petitioning the Beijing National People’s Congress Standing Committee about the police beating. She was convicted of “obstructing official business” and sentenced to one year in prison. After her release, Ni continued to help petitioners and those who face forced eviction in Beijing despite official harassment and retaliation.

On April 15, 2008, dozens of workers and police knocked down a wall of Ni‘s home. Ni tried to stop them. Police alleged that Ni beat a member of the demolition crew. On April 29, Ni was formally arrested on suspicion of “obstructing official business” by the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) Xicheng District Sub-division. Soon after she was taken into police custody on April 15, Ni was reportedly beaten and mistreated at Xinjiekou Police Station in Beijing. Police confiscated Ni‘s crutches and made her crawl when she had to use the bathroom. They kicked her so severely that she fell unconscious for two days.

Ni’s home was fully demolished by the authorities on November 21, 2008.

For more information, please see:

Beijing Activist Ni Yulan Arrested for Resisting Forced Demolition (May 2, 2008)

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