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Embassy Row: Locke demands Ni Yulan release

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The U.S. ambassador to China this week demanded that the Chinese government free a crippled human rights activist and her husband from prison and lift the house arrest of their daughter.

"I call on China's authorities to release Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin, and to cease any restrictions on the freedoms of their family members," Ambassador Gary Locke said in a strong challenge to the communist government.

Mr. Locke also directly criticized China for sentencing the couple to more than two years in prison for advocating property rights. Mrs. Ni opposes the government's practice of forced evictions and land grabs of homes and property.

The ambassador also referred to his concern about Mrs. Ni's "health and well-being, particularly in light of past abuses she has suffered."

Mrs. Ni, 51, says she was tortured so badly during an arrest in 2008 that she is now confined to a wheelchair.

The couple were arrested in April 2011. She was recently sentenced to two years and eight months in prison, while her husband was sentenced to two years. They appealed their sentences last week.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin declined to comment directly on Mr. Locke's statement.

"We hope relevant countries will respect China's judicial sovereignty," he said.

DON'T PUSH TURKEY

Iran "will pay a price" if it pushes Turkey too hard in disputes over sanctions on Syria and other regional issues, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan told a Turkish newspaper this week.

"Turkey definitely knows how to push back very, very effectively," Ambassador Ryan Crocker said in the interview with Today's Zaman, an English-language daily in Istanbul.

"And I think the Iranians are smart enough to understand that they had better stay within some pretty careful limits, or they will pay a price they won't like, shall we say."

Turkey and Iran historically have maintained friendly relations, but Iran recently has complained about Turkey's support for sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad because of his bloody repression of anti-government protests. Syria is one of Iran's closest allies.

Iran also was outraged last year when Turkey agreed to host part of a NATO missile defense system designed to block Iranian missiles. The head of the aerospace division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps threatened to attack Turkey if Iran's nuclear sites are bombed.

In his interview, Mr. Crocker called Turkey a "great example" of democracy in a Muslim country and praised its "major and positive" role in Afghanistan, where Turkey has deployed more than 1,800 troops.

PROGRESS IN PAKISTAN

U.S.-Pakistani relations may be on the mend with Washington's pledge of $110 million in security aid this week.

Ambassador Cameron Munter signed the agreement Monday with Waqar Masood, Pakistan's secretary for economic affairs, and later met with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

The agreement followed a decision by Pakistan's parliament to consider reopening two NATO supply lines for troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan closed the supply routes after a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November. A final decision is expected from Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

After the signing ceremony, Mr. Munter said the United States is "ready to engage in all issues concerning Pakistan."

Some observers speculated that he was hinting that the Obama administration is preparing to apologize for the airstrike.

The aid will help support border security, anti-drug campaigns and other security issues.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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