The US House Appropriations Committee has voted for the road near Washington’s Chinese embassy to be renamed “Liu Xiaobo Plaza”, after the Chinese human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident. Yeah, basically a giant middle finger to Beijing officials and their human rights track record.
The annual State Department spending bill put forth by Frank Wolf instructs John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, to make the street name amendment “for the purposes of United States Postal code”. You’d have thought they’d have come up with a better excuse to slightly cloud the fact they are basically flipping the bird to the Chinese government. Political subtlety it is not.
The embassy currently sits on 3505 International Place NW, reportedly near the Washington Zoo’s Panda House. At least its location will now be representative of two iconic figures of China. Liu Xiaobo, who the road is to be named after, was sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment for his involvement in the Charter 08 which calls for 19 changes to be made to the government system. Freedom of association and the elimination of one-party rule being one of them. In 2010, on his forth year in detainment, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent protesting for the human rights.
The Committee is moving forward with this decision on their own as the area the street resides on is under the authority of the Federal Government. However the proposal needs to be voted upon by the city council before any name change can be formally made. However, Council Chairman, Phil Mendelson, “introduced a resolution of support, noting a precedent in the 1980s, when “the land occupied by the Soviet Embassy on 16th Street N.W. was renamed 1 Andrei Sakharov Plaza” according to The Washington Post.
They continute to report:
Making a similar statement for the imprisoned Chinese dissident “would send a clear and powerful message that the United States remains vigilant and resolute in its commitment to safeguard human rights around the globe, particularly at a time when the world community remembers the events of Tiananmen Square 25 years ago this month” when the Chinese army crushed protests in Beijing, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands.
Obviously Chinese officials are less than pleased about the decision, as they’ve previously gone to the trouble to try and sensor the mention of his name in the media and now it’s going to be up on the wall for every Tom Dick and Harry to see. “We believe that the U.S. people will not like to see a U.S. street be named after a criminal” an embassy spokesman was quoted saying. Although the whole thing is kinda funny and we’re feeling the love for Liu Xiaobo, the whole thing does seem a bit sophomoric, does it not?
We’re just waiting for Chinese officials to rename the road outside Beijing’s US embassy ‘‘Edward Snowden Avenue.’
[Image via quadrant.org.au]
By Sophie Regan