China puts disabled human rights lawyer under house arrest, prevents foreign diplomats from visiting

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese authorities have placed a disabled rights lawyer under house arrest and prevented a group of foreign diplomats from visiting her, she said on Monday (April 25), ratcheting up pressure weeks after the United States State Department gave her a bravery award.

Ms Ni Yulan, known for defending people evicted from their homes to make way for development, had been held under house arrest for 12 days, she told Reuters.

The authorities prevented Ms Ni from travelling late last month to receive the State Department's International Women of Courage Award, which the department says is given to female advocates of human rights, justice and gender equality.

The Beijing police could not be reached for comment. China's Foreign Ministry has said exit-entry authorities acted in accordance with Chinese law in the case.

Five foreign diplomats, including those from the European Union, Germany, Canada, France and Switzerland, had sought to see Ms Ni at her home and deliver food over the weekend, but were prevented from entering, she said.

Diplomats with knowledge of the situation confirmed the group was turned away.

"Plainclothes officers did not allow them to come into my home," Ms Ni said by text message. A diplomat with knowledge of the situation confirmed that the group was denied access by plainclothes police.

The French and German embassies confirmed their diplomats were part of the group. The Canadian and Swiss embassies, as well as the European Union delegation, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The US Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the case, but US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that Ms Ni paid a "steep price" for her legal aid work.

Ms Ni, who was left wheelchair-bound by a police beating in 2002 after filming the forced demolition of a client's home, added that she is likely to be evicted from her home, but plainclothes police would not allow her to leave to search for a new apartment.

China's leadership has detained or imprisoned dozens of rights lawyers since President Xi Jinping took power in a widespread crackdown on dissent.

Ms Ni has been jailed repeatedly by the Chinese authorities, first in 2002 and then again in 2008 after she defended the rights of residents evicted from their homes to make way for Beijing's 2008 Summer Olympics.