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US voices concern as Chinese activist loses appeal

WASHINGTON -- The United States said Friday it was “deeply concerned” after a Chinese court threw out an appeal by disabled activist Ni Yulan and only reduced her prison term by two months.

The court cut Ni's sentence to 30 months after overturning a fraud conviction, but rejected her appeal against a second charge of “picking quarrels,” her lawyer Cheng Hai told AFP by telephone after a Beijing hearing.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the rejection of property and petitioner rights advocate Ni Yulan's appeal contesting her and her husband Dong Jiqin's April 2012 conviction on charges of creating a public disturbance,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

“We are also concerned for Ms Ni's health and well-being, particularly in light of past abuses she has suffered,” Nuland added in a statement.

Earlier this week, U.S. officials said after two days of talks with Chinese counterparts in Washington that the human rights situation in China was deteriorating.

“The United States government has long followed the courageous efforts of Ni Yulan and her husband on behalf of disadvantaged groups,” Nuland added.

“We call on Chinese authorities to release Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin, and to cease any restrictions on the freedoms of their family members.”

The case of Yulan, who was jailed after working with her husband to protect alleged victims of government-backed land grabs, was among about two dozen people whose names were raised by the U.S. during the human rights dialogue.

“I think over time we're responding to a very heartfelt desire by people living in China ... that their cases, their issues not be forgotten. We're amplifying their voices, in effect,” Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state for human rights, told journalists on Wednesday.

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