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China orders demolition of leading rights activist’s home

Posted by Author on November 18, 2008

AFP, Nov. 17, 2008-

BEIJING (AFP) — Beijing authorities have issued an order to destroy the home of one of China’s leading rights activists, who has been in police custody for more than 200 days, her husband and lawyer said Tuesday.

The plight of Ni Yulan is one of the highest-profile of the many so-called “land grab” cases in China, where city residents are evicted from their homes or farmers kicked off their lands to make way for developments.

Ni, 47, is a long-time campaigner against such government-backed land grabs and was jailed for a year in 2002 for her activist work, and she is now facing losing the home she shares with her husband.

Beijing’s Xicheng court recently ordered developers to level Ni’s home and told the family to vacate the premises by Friday last week, her husband, Dong Jiqin, told AFP, adding he had refused to leave.

“They stuck the demolition notice on our front door,” Dong said.

“Nobody came to talk with us, there were no negotiations for compensation, no public hearings.”

Dong said the notice informed him they would be given an apartment somewhere else in Beijing, but there were few details and no official came to speak with them about the offer.

Ni was sentenced in 2002 for “damaging public property” after being arrested at a rally aimed at stopping the demolition of another courtyard home in Beijing.

Dong and rights activists said she was beaten in the 2002 arrest and has since had to walk with a cane due to injuries sustained then.

At that time, Dong and Ni’s courtyard home, in a historic part of central Beijing, became a target for developers and she was re-arrested in late April this year as she campaigned to stop it from being knocked down.

Ni was charged with “obstructing official business,” and she has been in custody ever since, although she has not appeared in court.

Her lawyer, Hu Xiao, said he was pushing for court proceedings to begin quickly.

“She is physically weak and her jailing has put a lot of stress on her,” Hu told AFP.

“She is a handicapped person, so we have asked the court to begin her trial as soon as possible out of respect for her health.”

Dong and Hu said they had hoped a death sentence handed down last month to the head of the Xicheng court, which has overseen Ni’s case, for corruption related to building projects may have helped their cause.

The sentencing of Xicheng court chief Guo Shenggui was announced a few days after one of China’s top law enforcement officials vowed to protect the rights of ordinary citizens in land grab cases.

Dong said he had all along suspected that Guo approved her jailing in 2002 and the police harassment that had followed them ever since.

But he said he feared now that their initial hopes following Guo’s downfall were misplaced.

The Xicheng court refused to answer questions from AFP on Tuesday.

Land grab cases are one of the most sensitive social issues in China, and frequently lead to protests.

As all land belongs to the state in China, local officials enjoy immense powers to determine land-use rights, and critics say residents and farmers are often forcefully evicted in shady deals between the government and developers.

In the latest such incident reported in the state-run press, up to 2,000 people attacked a local Communist Party headquarters in northwest China’s Gansu province on Tuesday.

The protesters smashed windows of the party building and nearby cars in Longnan city to protest the forced demolition of homes and eviction of tenants there, according to the Xinhua news agency.

– AFP

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