Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo's brother-in-law went on trial for fraud Tuesday, the latest in a string of Chinese dissidents' relatives to be subjected to official harassment and persecution.
Liu himself is currently serving an 11-year jail sentence for inciting subversion after helping organize a pro-democracy campaign called "Charter '08." Now his brother-in-law, Liu Hui, faces 14 years imprisonment. The three-hour hearing in a suburban Beijing court ended without a verdict.
"Persecuting relatives is part of the arsenal deployed against dissidents, critics and whistleblowers as a matter of routine" in China, says Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong. "It is very much part of the repertoire of political repression."
Mo Shaoping, Mr. Liu's lawyer, said he could not say whether the fraud case, based on an earlier real estate dispute that has since been resolved, was politically motivated or not, but, he says, "I do not believe there is enough evidence to charge him."
Liu Hui is the brother of the Nobel laureate's wife, Liu Xia, who herself has been confined to her Beijing apartment by plainclothes guards almost permanently since her husband's arrest, despite the fact that she has never been accused of any crime.
Children of activists
The court case came a day after another democracy activist, Zhang Lin, announced that he had given up his campaign to send his 10- year-old daughter to school near his home in the southern province of Anhui. The school she had been attending, in the provincial capital Hefei, had refused to re-admit her, prompting widespread outrage on the Chinese Internet.
Zhang Anni is by no means the first Chinese child to be denied schooling because of her father's activism. Jailed human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng's daughter, Geng Ge, was turned away from high schools in Beijing in 2008 after her father was detained. She and her mother fled secretly to the United States shortly thereafter so that she could continue her education.
"The Communist Party wanted my husband to compromise," says Mr. Gao's wife, Geng He, "so they used my daughter and me as tools and put us through horrors."
Blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng complained in testimony to the US Congress earlier this month that "persecution of my family has never stopped" since he moved to the United States a year ago.
When Mr. Chen was allowed to leave China after having escaped from illegal house arrest and sought protection at the US Embassy in Beijing, the Chinese government gave assurances that his relatives would be treated according to law, US officials said at the time.
But Chen's nephew, sentenced last November to 39 months in jail for assault, has been told by officials that if he appeals against the sentence he will be locked up for life, according to the young man's father, Chen's eldest brother Chen Guangfu. …