A Chinese court in Huairou on Sunday sentenced Liu Hui, brother-in-law of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], to 11 years in prison on charges of fraud. The verdict is seen by many as severe and is widely believed to be an act of political persecution and retaliation [AP report] for allegedly subversive activities by the Liu family against the Chinese government. Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010, is currently serving an 11-year sentence [JURIST report] for "inciting subversion of state power" and dissidence. Police in China arrested and detained [JURIST report] Liu Hui in March on charges of fraud, formally charging him in a real estate dispute. Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo and sister of Liu Hui, was under house arrest in December but secretly enabled news reporters and family friends to sneak past security guards who were watching her house. Many are also viewing the severity of the ruling against Liu Hui as a message [NYT report] that China intends to stand strong against Western pressure for greater human rights.
Liu Xiaobo has been one of China's most prominent dissidents. He spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] uprising, has long challenged China's one-party rule and co-authored Charter 08 [text], a petition calling for political reforms in the country. International organizations have been rallying for Liu's release since he was announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize [JURIST reports] in November 2010. In August 2011 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] called for the immediate release of Liu, according to UN documents obtained by Freedom Now. The documents said that the Chinese government responded by saying the conviction was in accordance with Chinese criminal codes and consistent with the rule of law. In December 2010 Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in absentia [JURIST report] at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. The Chinese government denounced the decision calling it "contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Prize," and censoring the announcement, blocking internet searches and international broadcasts about it and even turning off phones of people who text messaged the news.