Beijing to put activist on trial on eve of Olympics

July 29th, 2008 - 2:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 29 (DPA) China’s housing rights activist Ni Yulan is scheduled to go on trial Aug 4, in a move by authorities to silence critics ahead of its hosting of the world’s biggest sports event, the Summer Olympics, Ni’s husband said Tuesday. Ni, 48, was arrested April 15 when she tried to stop dozens of workers and police from knocking down a wall of her home, which she had refused to vacate for city redevelopment, despite threats and pressure from the authorities.

Police alleged the former lawyer beat a member of the demolition crew. Ni was formally arrested April 29 on suspicion of “obstructing official business”.

“This is all fabricated by the police,” Ni’s husband Dong Jiqin told DPA.

“She’s a human rights activist and they are doing this to her because they are afraid overseas media will contact her during the Olympics,” Dong said.

Dong said his wife could be sentenced to a prison term of two to three years if convicted.

Dozens of other rights activists and dissidents have been detained, sentenced to prison or kept under some form of house arrest in the last few months as the government intensified its efforts to minimize the chances of embarrassing protests or interviews with foreign media during the Aug 8-24 Games.

Ni’s family is among many who were ordered to move after Beijing won the bid to host the Olympics in 2001 to make way for construction of new commercial buildings and luxury apartments.

The new construction had nothing to do with Olympic venues, but were seen by local officials as a way to beautify the city and increase revenues.

But unlike hundreds of thousands of Beijingers who took the non-negotiable compensation to move, Ni refused and kept speaking to foreign media, keeping contact with rights groups and activists and assisting victims of forced evictions.

Ni previously served one year in prison on a conviction of “obstructing official business” when she sought redress for being beaten and left disabled by Beijing police in 2002 while she was trying to film the forced demolition of a Beijing home.

Ni is now unable to walk without crutches.

Family members said in her latest arrest Ni was again mistreated by police, who confiscated her crutches and made her crawl to use the bathroom.

A lawyer who made the only visit allowed to Ni during her three-month detention told Dong that his wife appeared in poor health and was beaten during police interviews.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |