Radio Free Asia: Chinese ‘Woman of Courage’ Faces Eviction, Travel Ban Ahead of Award

Radio Free Asia 

■ Chinese housing rights lawyer Ni Yulan is unable to travel to the U.S. to receive her 2016 International Women of Courage award, she told RFA ahead of the ceremony.

Wheelchair-bound Ni, 54, was informed of her award by the U.S. State Department last month and had made plans to travel to Tuesday’s ceremony in Washington, she said on Monday.

“The authorities froze my passport; they told me when I went to apply for one on Feb. 28,” Ni said. “The U.S. State Department got in touch with the foreign ministry of China, asking them to issue me with a passport, but they replied on March 15 saying that it was out of their hands and that they weren’t allowed to issue me with a passport.”

“The reason they gave was that I am under a travel ban because I have had contact with the lawyers who are currently detained in Tianjin,” she said.

Ni Yulan (C) and her husband Dong Jiqin (3L) pose with
friends and supporters in Beijing, May 27, 2010. AFP

Ni said she had been ordered to re-apply by Beijing police after she tried to apply for an exit permit to leave China on Monday.

“When they checked it on their computer, it said that I’m not allowed to leave the country,” she said.

China has detained or questioned more than 300 human rights lawyers, law firm staff, activists and their family members in a nationwide police operation since the detention of Beijing-based rights lawyer Wang Yu and her colleagues at the Fengrui law firm on the night of July 9, 2015.

Many are still held on subversion charges in Tianjin, while others have been slapped with travel bans or other police restrictions.

Ni said police came round and beat up her husband Dong Jiqin on Saturday, as the couple’s landlord say they must leave their rented home because of pressure from police, the latest in a string of evictions forced on them by the authorities.

“A bunch of them beat up my husband, who is 65 years old, and who has high blood pressure,” Ni said. “When they were done beating him, they dragged him outside and trampled on him.”

“Once more, we need to find somewhere else to rent, because … the landlord has told us the police say we can’t stay there,” she said.

Husband trampled and kicked

Dong told RFA: “Around seven or eight of them dragged me out of the building and held me to the ground while the others stamped on my arms and legs.”

“There were six or seven people trampling me, kicking me in the belly and chest and injuring my left foot,” he said.

According to the State Department website, Ni is among those honored as a 2016 Woman of Courage because of her work helping to protect the legal rights of ordinary Chinese, and her promotion of the rule of law in China.

“For her outspokenness, she has been arrested and imprisoned twice, sentenced to hard labor, and beaten to the point of paralysis,” the statement said.

“Despite continued threats and harassment by police, Ms. Ni remains undaunted in defending the rights of her fellow citizens, filing lawsuits against public security officials and connecting lawyers and activists across China to advance the cause of human rights and the rule of law,” it said.

Ni has been repeatedly targeted for her activism on behalf of the most vulnerable in Chinese society.

In April 2012, she was sentenced to a two-year prison term following her conviction on charges of “fraud” and “causing a disturbance” by the Xicheng District People’s Court in Beijing. The sentence was later reduced by two months.

Dong, a former schoolteacher, was also convicted of creating a disturbance and was handed a two-year term.

Ni, who was targeted by the authorities after she began petitioning over her own eviction and offering legal advice to fellow petitioners, was released on Oct. 7, 2013 after serving her full jail term in spite of repeated requests from her family for medical parole.

Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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