China upholds jail term for Nobel laureate's relative

A Chinese court Friday upheld an 11-year prison sentence given to a relative of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, a lawyer said, in a verdict the family claimed was littered with "lies".

Police detained Liu Hui in January on suspicion of committing fraud in connection with a real estate deal. His brother-in-law Liu Xiaobo was jailed four years earlier for "subversion" after he circulated a charter calling for democratic reforms.

Liu Hui's brother, Liu Tong, said he refused to believe government promises that his family was not being targeted because of Liu Xiaobo's political activism, which earned the dissident a Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

"We feel uncomfortable with the verdict. It is painful. There are a lot of lies in it," he told AFP. "At this rate all of our family will be in jail at some point."

Liu Hui, who manages a real estate firm in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, was alleged to have defrauded another man, together with a colleague.

"The government is saying in public that it wants fair trials, but then this happens which is completely ridiculous," Liu Tong told AFP.

"They say it (Li Xiaobo's activism) is unrelated, but I can't agree with them.

"We feel like there is nothing we could have done about this and that we are helpless," he said.

The Nobel laureate's wife, Liu Xia, left home after years under house arrest in April to attend the opening trial session for Liu Hui, her brother.

She also attended the sentencing in June, but not Friday's appeal, as she felt unwell during the journey to court and returned home, Shang Baojun, one of Liu Hui's lawyers told AFP.

"It is difficult for us to understand this decision," he added.

"But it is difficult to say if the judgement was affected by other factors," he added, refusing to be drawn on whether the family was being targeted.

Lawyers said previously that Liu Xia believed the charges against her brother were "political persecution".

Liu Tong said the entire family has been devastated by the failure of the appeal.

Foreign diplomats and journalists were barred from entering the court for the appeal hearing, media reports said.

An official who answered the phone at Beijing's Huairou District People's Court on Friday could not immediately confirm the decision to uphold the sentence.

In June Liu Xia appealed to President Xi Jinping to choose "justice" over "merciless oppression", in a rare public statement.

She warned in an open letter that rights violations jeopardised Xi Jinping's recent calls for a national renaissance.

"Don't let the Chinese dream for people like us become a 'Chinese nightmare'," she wrote.

"What we should see from national authorities is justice, not merciless oppression."

Since taking office as president earlier this year, Xi has touted the catchphrase "Chinese dream" which, though vaguely defined, is meant to encourage national rejuvenation and pride.

China's ruling Communist Party keeps a tight grip on power, dealing harshly with dissidents and other potential threats to its authority.

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