A Chinese appeals court yesterday threw out a fraud conviction against a rights activist who has fought on behalf of people forcibly evicted from their homes, but it upheld a separate conviction against Ni Yulan (倪玉蘭) for causing a disturbance, her lawyers said.
A lower court had ruled that Ni and her husband, Dong Jiqin (董繼勤), acted in an unruly way when they failed to pay for their stay at a hotel — where they had been detained by police — and mistreated staff. It also ruled Ni had received money through deceit.
Defense lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) said the higher court — Beijing First Intermediate Court — rescinded the fraud conviction and cut Ni’s prison sentence by two months to two years and six months after the person who gave Ni the money told the court it was a donation.
“We consider it a success,” said Dong Qianyong (董前勇), another lawyer for Ni.
Public disturbance convictions against the couple remain, and Dong Jiqin’s two-year sentence handed down by the lower court stands, Cheng said.
Cheng said he plans to appeal again for Ni’s release.
Ni is not as well-known internationally as some Chinese dissidents, but she has been the target of “sustained police persecution” for the past decade, according to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
She has been jailed twice before — first in 2002 and again in 2008 for “obstructing official business.”
Ni and her supporters 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.
Early last year, then-US ambassador Jon Huntsman visited Ni to show his support. After her sentencing this year, US Ambassador Gary Locke urged Beijing to release her, and her case was raised during the annual US-China human rights dialogue that ended in Washington on Tuesday.