A Beijing court on Tuesday sentenced Chinese housing activist and lawyer, Ni Yulan, to two years and eight months in prison on charges of fraud and "inciting a disturbance" in Beijing. Ni's husband, Dong Jiqin, was also sentenced to two years in prison on similar charges. Ni and her husband had assisted victims of government land seizures [Guardian report], including those displaced by the Beijing Olympics project, prior to their arrest in August 2011. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for Ni and her husband's immediate release, saying that that charges are false and meant to punish Yulan for her activist work [AI report]. Ni has been confined to a wheelchair since 2002, when prison guards beat her severely while she was serving one of two prior prison sentences. In poor health, lying on a stretcher and relying on an oxygen machine, Ni pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] at her trial in December. Although a court spokesperson indicated the trial was open to the public, foreign journalists and diplomats were barred from the proceedings [IBT report].
Ni Yulan is one of several high-profile dissidents to be sentenced as part of a larger crackdown in China. In January, prominent rights activist Li Tie was sentenced to 10 years in prison [JURIST report] on subversion charges brought in response to pro-democracy articles he wrote in 2010. In December, a Chinese court sentenced political activist Chen Xi [JURIST report] to 10 years in prison for inciting subversion. The charges against Chen, 57, stemmed from more than 30 political essays that he had published online. Also in December, a Chinese court sentenced human rights advocate Chen Wei [JURIST report], who is unrelated to Chen Xi, to nine years in prison. Chen Wei, 42, was sentenced after a two-hour hearing in which he pleaded not guilty to inciting subversion of state power. He was charged for having written essays critical of the Communist Party, which he published on overseas Chinese websites, avoiding the national Internet censorship firewalls. Chen was one of more than 130 activists detained after the US-based news site Boxun [website, in Chinese] reported an anonymous appeal for people to stage protests across China last year.