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Meeting human needs

****UPDATE: We are delighted to report that Ni Yulan was released from Tiantanghe Women’s Prison in Beijing on 5th October.  Her health is poor as her illness was left untreated during her sentence, but she remains determined and will continue speaking out against human rights abuses in China.****

All over the world, brave men and women are harassed, detained, tortured and raped for standing up to injustice. There are many organisations that do fantastic work highlighting these human rights abuses and campaigning for prisoners of conscience to be freed, but who is there to provide practical support while they are in prison or when they are finally released? We are. Thanks to your support, we can respond quickly to the urgent human needs that arise from human rights abuses.

Ni Yulan in 2011. Credit: Paul Mooney

Ni Yulan’s story

Ni Yulan is a lawyer from China. After Beijing’s successful bid for the Olympic Games in 2001, demolition projects were immediately started across China. Several streets where Ni lived were within the area identified for demolition so Ni got involved in human rights advocacy to help her neighbours whose houses were to be destroyed.

After filming the enforced demolition of a neighbour’s house, she experienced the first of many arrests which led to her imprisonment for “obstructing public service”. Her lawyer’s licence was also revoked. Ni was brutally beaten while in prison. Because the injuries she sustained to her legs were not treated in time, she has been left with a disability and now has to use a wheelchair.

Once the Beijing Olympic Games were over in 2008, Ni’s home was demolished. When she protested, she was arrested and again sentenced to two years for “obstructing public service.” While in police custody, Ni was beaten and ill-treated; police confiscated her crutches and made her crawl when she had to use the bathroom. They kicked her so severely that she was unconscious for two days. When Ni came out of prison in April 2010 she was both disabled and homeless, living with her husband in an emergency shelter.

Demolitions in Beijing. Credit: Axel Kirch

Ni’s livelihood depends on her husband’s very small retirement pension and support from their relatives. They didn’t receive compensation from the government for their demolished house, nor were they offered housing for the period of transition.

Ni was detained again in December 2011. This time her husband was arrested too. In April 2012, Ni was jailed for two years and eight months, while her husband was given a two year sentence for “picking quarrels, provoking trouble and wilfully destroying private and public property.”

Ni has been very unwell since she was beaten in custody and her health is rapidly deteriorating. Her problems include an untreated thyroid tumour detected last year. Her family and lawyer applied for medical parole, but the application was rejected.

A recent grant of just £350 from our Fund is paying for Ni’s daughter and sister to visit the prison with essential food and medicine for her and her husband. Without your support we wouldn’t be able to offer such vital assistance.

If you can, please help us to give practical, human support to Ni and others like her.