[JURIST] A dissident Chinese poet was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment on Monday on charges of contract fraud. Li Bifing was sentenced [AFP report] by the Shehong County Court in China’s Sichuan province, according to a lawyer. Li previously served five years in jail [AP report] for his involvement in the 1989 protests on Tiananmen Square. Li was detained two months after his friend Liao Yiwu escaped from China [Guardian report] in June and fled to Germany. Li was also sentenced to jail time in 1998 due to alleged fraud related to the sale of a safe-box from his workplace. This prison sentence arose after Li investigated a strike by textile workers and wrote an open letter to authorities about his findings. Li’s lawyer Ma Xiaopeng said that Monday’s court hearing was flawed.
Dissidents and human rights advocates have encountered significant legal problems in China. In September Beijing’s Second Intermediate People’s Court denied an appeal [JURIST report] by dissident artist Ai Weiwei challenging a 15 million yuan (USD $2.4 million) fine for back taxes. The Chinese government levied the fine against Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., the company that promotes Ai’s work. In June a Chinese intermediate court dismissed fraud charges [JURIST report] 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. 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 [advocacy website], which for their immediate release. Also in June 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.