A Chinese court yesterday sentenced the brother-in-law of jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) to 11 years in prison on charges of fraud in a case rights activists have called another example of official retribution on the Liu family.
Supporters of Liu Hui (劉暉) say his case was trumped up, aimed at thwarting the increasing attention by the rights community on the plight of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia (劉霞), who has remained under effective house arrest since her husband won the Nobel in 2010.
The court in Huairou, a one-hour drive northeast of Beijing, convicted Liu Hui, a manager in a real-estate company in the southern city of Shenzhen, on charges of defrauding a man called Zhang Bing (張兵) of 3 million yuan (US$490,000) with a colleague, lawyer Mo Shaoping (莫少平) said.
“As Liu Hui’s defense attorney, I definitely do not approve of this verdict, because we see this fundamentally as a civil issue and it fundamentally does not constitute criminal fraud. Also, there is not sufficient evidence,” Mo said.
Liu Hui has maintained his innocence, his lawyers say.
In a rare statement to media, a weeping Liu Xia told reporters from the front passenger seat of her car as she drove away from the courthouse that she was extremely angry with the verdict and vowed to launch an appeal.
“I absolutely cannot accept this. This is simply persecution,” she said. “This is completely an illegal verdict.”
After about two minutes, security forced journalists away from the car, which moved off.
Liu Hui was let out on bail in September last year, but then arrested again in January after several rights activists and foreign reporters forced their way past security guards late last year to visit Liu Xia, one of his other lawyers, Shang Baojun (尚寶軍), told reporters before the verdict.
Raphael Droszewski, a first secretary at the EU Delegation to China, told reporters at the courthouse that the EU was deeply concerned by Liu Hui’s sentence. He called for Liu Xiaobo’s release and an end to restrictions on Liu Xia.
Liu Xiaobo was jailed in 2009 on subversion charges for organizing a petition urging the overthrow of one-party rule. Liu Xia is rarely allowed out of her home, but has not been convicted of any crime.
The ruling is seen as a setback for hopes for political reform from Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
The verdict was handed down hours after Xi and US President Barack Obama finished an informal summit in California.
Speaking in California after the summit, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) defended China’s human rights as “there for all to see.”
“With China’s economic and social development, human rights causes in China will enjoy even greater progress in the future,” Yang said.
This story has been corrected since it was first published.