[JURIST] A Chinese intermediate court on Friday dismissed fraud charges against Ni Yulan, a human rights lawyer with disabilities, resulting in a two-month reduction to her two-year and eight-month sentence while upholding convictions against the lawyer for causing a disturbance. Ni had assisted victims of government land seizures [Guardian report], including those displaced by the Beijing Olympics project, prior to their arrest in August 2011. The fraud charges included allegations that Ni received 5,000 yuan (USD $783) through fabrication of her identity as a lawyer. The First Intermediate People's Court in Beijing held [Guardian report] that the funds were merely donations after the testimony of the person who gave Ni the contributions. The lawyers for Ni stated that Friday's ruling was a small victory and announced their plan to appeal again for the release of their client. The holding came a day after the US called [GlobalPost report] China to improve its human rights records criticizing the country for its continued practice of suppressing dissidents.
Ni and her husband, Dong Jiqin, were sentenced [JURIST report] in April by a lower court on charges of fraud and inciting disturbance. The sentence faced criticism by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], which for their immediate release. AI condemned the sentence stating that the charges were false and that Ni was only beingpunished for her activist work [AI report]. China is known for its strict policy against dissidents. This month, Beijing's Chaoyang District Court rejected [JURIST report] the appeal brought by dissident artist Ai Weiwei [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] challenging the government's imposition of 15 million yuan (USD $2.4 million) tax evasion penalty. Last month, he was banned from attending the first hearing in the case brought by his company, Fake Cultural Development Ltd., against Beijing tax authorities, a month after the court agreed to hear [JURIST reports] the case. Also last month, a Chinese court in the southwestern city of Chongqing quashed [JURIST report] the sentence against a Chinese blogger and former forestry employee for lack of evidence. With the annulment the Third Intermediate Court held that the one-year detention of Fang Hong in a police-run labor camp was illegal.