Beijing often goes after dissidents' families as well. In May, for instance, the nephew of human rights activist Chen Guangcheng accused Chinese authorities of refusing him surgery in prison, where he is serving a sentence for assault – a sentence many say is itself a punishment for Mr. Chen's activism.
Just weeks earlier, the brother-in-law of another prominent activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, also found himself in court and charged with fraud in another case with political underpinnings.
"Persecuting relatives is part of the arsenal deployed against dissidents, critics, and whistle-blowers as a matter of routine," Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, told the Monitor in April. "It is very much part of the repertoire of political repression."