HONG KONG — The brother-in-law of Liu Xiaobo, China’s jailed Nobel Peace Prize recipient, is likely to face trial soon on fraud charges that a lawyer for the family said Friday lacked sufficient evidence and that supporters said appeared to be an effort to deter Liu’s wife from defying house arrest.
Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison on subversion charges in late 2009 after helping to organize a petition that urged uprooting one-party rule through a sweeping democratic transformation. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, prompting vehement denunciations from China’s Communist Party. Previously, he had been jailed for supporting the 1989 prodemocracy demonstrations.
Since Liu won the prize, his wife, Liu Xia, an artist and writer, has lived under house arrest in an apartment in western Beijing, herself becoming a symbol of China’s shackles on dissent, and lately a test of whether the new party leader’s vows to respect the law could extend to stopping extrajudicial detention of dissidents. Especially since December, Liu Xia has attracted a trickle of visitors who have tried to outwit guards and police officers outside her apartment, sometimes successfully.
But the arrest of Liu Xia’s younger brother, Liu Hui, appears to be intended to intimidate her and her family and supporters, said Hu Jia, a well-known human rights activist in Beijing, who briefly visited Liu Xia late last year and has tried several times to see her again.
“Liu Xia has felt under massive pressure,’’ Hu said. ‘‘When I contacted her, she said, ‘I’ll soon go mad,’ and I think one important reason she feels this way is because of her younger brother’s arrest, that she sees a cause-and-effect relationship.’’ He recounted a hurried, shouted exchange with her in February, when she spoke from her apartment window.
“One point that is very clear is that they may be using her younger brother to put pressure on her,’’ Hu said, adding that he did not understand the specific allegations against the brother.