Ni Yulan
Current Status

Unable to walk

Case Summary

Ni Yulan was born in 1961 and began practicing law in 1986.  Ms. Ni increasingly drew the attention of the government after she became involved housing-rights activism in 2002, as Beijing prepared for the Olympic Games. After Beijing won the bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the city underwent extensive development that included the eviction of hundreds of thousands of residents and their relocation to peripheral suburbs. Ms. Ni took on many cases for dispossessed tenants. On April 27, 2002, the police took Ms. Ni into custody for filming the forced demolition of a client’s home. Ms. Ni was detained for 75 days, and beaten so badly that she never recovered the ability to walk without a cane or crutches.

Upon her release on September 27, 2002, Ms. Ni petitioned the Beijing National People’s Congress Standing Committee for redress for the unlawful beatings. Instead, she was again arrested and charged with “obstructing public duty.” Her criminal conviction on this charge resulted in a one-year prison sentence and the permanent revocation of her professional lawyer’s license.

After her release, Ms. Ni was subjected to continuing harassment by the police. In August of 2004, when she and housing activist Ye Guozhu filed an application to hold a tenant-rights demonstration, the two activists were detained by police. On November 15, 2005, police warned Ms. Ni not to leave her home during President Bush’s visit to China. Two days later, she was attacked while walking in a nearby park; when she reported the attack to police, she was once again arrested. In March 2007, she was placed under house arrest for the duration of the National People’s Congress.

On April 15, 2008, a police-directed demolition crew knocked down a wall surrounding Ms. Ni’s home. She was hit in the head with a brick, dragged away and arrested for filing a “false report” about the previous assault. Her husband was also arrested and detained at the same time. Her husband was released after several days, but Ms. Ni was formally charged and convicted of “obstructing public duty,” this time receiving a sentence of two years. Her home was completely demolished in November of 2008. For a year of her sentence, she was denied the use of crutches and forced to crawl around the prison facility.

Ms. Ni was released in April of 2010. The following summer, fellow activists helped Ms. Ni and her husband, homeless after the demolition of their house, move into the Yuxingong Guesthouse. During December of 2010 and January of 2011, their electricity, water, phone, and internet service were repeatedly cut off as police pressured them to leave.

In April 2011, Ms. Ni and her husband were seized by police in the middle of the night. After a December 2011 trial, she was convicted in April 2012 of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and “fraud,” leading to a prison sentence of two years and eight months, as well as a 1,000 yuan fine. Ms. Ni’s husband, Dong Jiqin, was also sentenced to two years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” Ms. Ni filed an appeal and in July of 2012 and an appellate court overturned her fraud conviction, but upheld the conviction for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” The court reduced her two-year and eight-month prison term by two months. The court also upheld the conviction and sentence of Ms. Ni’s husband.

In March 2016, Ms. Ni was honored by the US State Department for the International Women of Courage Award. Because her application for a passport was denied by the Chinese government, she was unable to travel to receive the award. Since Ms. Ni’s release from prison, her lines of communication have been cut and she has been placed under house arrest. She is currently barred from leaving China.

Last updated July 18, 2018

Other Resources

China Human Rights Defenders, “Emergency Shelter – A Documentary about Ni Yulan,” available at (video in Chinese).

Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the on the situation of
human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya
, Addendum, Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received, ¶609-11, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/10/12/Add.1 (March 4, 2009), available at


Sui-Lee Wee, “China detains rights lawyer, sends man to labor camp,” Reuters, April 15, 2011, available at

Paul Mooney, “Darkness at Noon,” South China Morning Post, Jan. 30, 2011, available at

Jerome A. Cohen, “Human Rights Day with ‘Chinese Characteristics’,” Dec. 21, 2010, available at

Human Rights Watch, China: Beaten Activist to Be Tried on Eve of Olympics, July 29, 2008, available at

Peter Ford, “Why Chinese Activist Ni Yulan Lost Nearly Everything,” Christian Science Monitor, July 6, 2010, available at

BBC, “Rights activist Ni Yulan ‘barred from leaving’ China”

Amnesty International, “Ni Yulan has been tortured and thrown out of her home. China must stop persecuting her.”