30 Dec 2011

Activists on trial

8:32 am on 30 December 2011

Two Chinese rights activists are on trial in Beijing, accused of fraud and libel for their work providing legal help to people whose homes have been seized by the government.

Ni Yulan and her husband, Dong Jiqin, have pleaded not guilty.

Mrs Ni, 51, who is in poor health, had to use a respirator during the hearing, according to her lawyer.

Their supporters say the trial is a sign of China's growing intolerance of dissent.

The BBC reports Mrs Ni's fight against land grabs began in 2002 after her home in central Beijing was requisitioned and later demolished.

She has been banned from working as a lawyer and previously imprisoned twice. She and her husband have continued to advise others whose land has been seized.

The couple were detained earlier this year. Mrs Ni uses a wheelchair, a consequence, she says, of mistreatment by police.

The trial was closed to the press and foreign diplomats. Lawyer Cheng Hai said no verdict had been reached, and it was unclear when one would be announced.