China jails disabled rights activist and husband

A disabled rights activist and her husband were reportedly sentenced to jail by a Chinese court Tuesday for "provoking trouble."

Ni Yulan, who has been using a wheelchair since 2002, when she was crippled from abuse in a Chinese prison, was sentenced to two years and eight months on separate charges of fraud and "picking quarrels, provoking trouble and willfully destroying private and public property," AFP reported.

The woman's husband, Dong Jiqin, was jailed for two years on the latter charge, a court spokesman told AFP outside a Beijing courthouse on Tuesday.

"This is completely unfair, I urge the government to release my parents," the couple's daughter,  Dong Xuan, told AFP after the verdict was read.

"Both my parents looked very thin. I was unable to see my mother's face, she didn't turn around. She was in a wheelchair and looked very weak. My father saw me and asked me how I was. He told me that he was OK," she said.

Ni and Dong, who have long helped victims of government-backed land grabs in China, were detained in April last year as authorities rounded up scores of activists amid online calls for protests similar to those in the Arab world.

They were tried in December in a four-hour hearing that was closed to the press and diplomats who tried to enter the courthouse. Their lawyers say the charges were trumped up to silence them.

"We believe this verdict is unfair and a violation of the law," lawyer Cheng Hai told journalists following the sentencing.

Cheng said Ni and Dong's conviction stemmed from their refusal to pay an $11,000 (69,000 yuan) bill for a hotel where police placed them in June 2010, after Ni was released from her previous two-year jail sentence.

The couple had been living on the streets after their central Beijing home was demolished after a long legal battle in November 2008.

Newscore contributed to this report.