China police stop Western diplomats from visiting dissident

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese lawyer said police stopped five Western diplomats who were trying to visit her in Beijing on Saturday after she had been prevented from travelling to the United States to accept an award for her rights work.

The lawyer, Ni Yulan, was awarded the State Department’s International Women of Courage Award for her work defending people forcibly evicted from their homes. But she says she was unable to attend the ceremony in Washington last month because authorities refused her a new passport.

Ni said that diplomats representing the European Union, Germany, Canada, France and Switzerland tried to visit her rented house in Beijing on Saturday afternoon, but were stopped outside the home by six plainclothes agents, including one who used “dirty words to insult the diplomats.”

Ni has been imprisoned in the past for what she and her supporters say was punishment for her years of activism, including her advocacy for people forced from their homes to make way for the real estate development that remade Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. She was left disabled by police mistreatment in 2002, when she said police pinned her down and kicked her knees until she was unable to walk.

Ni said by phone on Saturday that police and other security agents have been monitoring her constantly and preventing her from leaving her home since April 13, when she went to the U.S. Embassy to collect her award.

She said her husband went out to speak to the diplomats, who had brought food for her, and she expressed her gratitude.

Calls to the publicity department of the public security bureau in the Beijing district of Xicheng rang unanswered Saturday evening.

The German Embassy in Beijing confirmed in a statement that a member of its embassy “together with like-minded diplomats made an unsuccessful attempt to visit Ni Yulan.” It did not give further details.

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