Washington's ambassador to China is calling for Beijing to release disabled human rights lawyer Ni Yulan and her husband, who were imprisoned last week on charges of causing a disturbance and committing fraud.
A Beijing court sentenced the 51-year-old lawyer on Tuesday to two years and eight months in prison. Her husband, Dong Jiqin, was to be imprisoned for two years on similar charges.
U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke issued a statement Monday saying he is very concerned by the sentencing, as well as for Ni's health and well-being, particularly in light of past abuses she has suffered.
Locke also says he is troubled that the couple's daughter is subject to extrajudicial house arrest.
Sarah Schafer, a Hong Kong-based China researcher with Amnesty International, told VOA last week the sentence is “absolutely unfair.” She charged that Ni was targeted because she and her husband have been outspoken advocates for victims of land rights violations.
“Ni Yulan has suffered countless abuses at the hands of authorities, trying to defend people from forced evictions. In fact, she herself is a victim of a violent forced eviction and she began giving aid to other victims to other victims of these types of evictions in 2001.”
Ni was jailed in 2002 and 2008 for “obstructing official business” and “harming public property”, after fighting against the government seizure of her home in Beijing. She says she was tortured while in prison and is now confined to a wheelchair.