Wed, Apr 11, 2012 - Page 1 News List

China sentences a housing activist and her husband to jail

AP and Reuters, BEIJING

A Chinese activist who has fought for the rights of people forcibly evicted from their homes was yesterday sentenced by a Beijing court to two years and eight months in jail for unruly behavior and fraud.

Ni Yulan (倪玉蘭), a veteran activist left disabled by past police mistreatment, was sentenced along with her husband, Dong Jiqin (董繼勤), who was jailed for two years. The punishment was handed down amid heavy security, with police ringing the courthouse and access roads to the area cordoned off.

The couple were arrested last year, when China carried out a sweeping crackdown to deter popular uprisings such as the ones that shook the Arab world.

They were convicted of causing a disturbance at a hotel where they had been detained by police. The court said the couple failed to pay 69,972 yuan (US$11,087) in hotel bills between June 2010 and April last year. Ni was also convicted of posing as a lawyer and receiving 5,000 yuan through deceit.

Ni and her supporters deny the charges and say she is being punished for her years of activism, especially her advocacy for people forced from their homes to make way for the fast-paced real-estate development that remade Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. Her outspokenness earned her the enmity of officials and developers.

Although Ni is not as well known internationally as some Chinese dissidents, she has been a target of “sustained police persecution” for the past decade, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong-based organization. Early last year, then-US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman visited Ni to show support.

The EU issued a statement in front of the court yesterday saying it was “deeply concerned” about Ni’s sentence and that because of her poor health she should be released immediately.

“The European Union is preoccupied with the deterioration of the situation for human rights defenders in China and will continue to follow these cases attentively,” the statement said.

Bo Xilai

Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party has decided to expel former leadership contender Bo Xilai (薄熙來) from the elite Central Committee, sources said late yesterday, citing a decision likely to disclose details of a scandal that has shaken a looming leadership succession.

The four sources, who all requested anonymity, said the ruling party had made the decision after investigating Bo, the former party chief of Chongqing municipality in southwest China, over a scandal that emerged after former Chongqing vice mayor Wang Lijun (王立軍) fled to a US consulate for 24 hours in February.

Wang’s flight triggered a series of revelations, including questions about the death of a British businessman close to Bo’s family, and Bo was dismissed as Chongqing party chief in the middle of last month.

Bo has been removed from the Central Committee, a council of 200 senior officials who meet about once a year, and from the Politburo, a more powerful body of about two dozen Central Committee members, the sources said.

The decision effectively ends Bo’s political career.

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