June 24, 2014
House committee votes to give Chinese Embassy new address: No. 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza
By Michael Laris
The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday voted to rename the stretch of road in front of the Chinese Embassy “Liu Xiaobo Plaza,” a symbolic nod to the Nobel Prize-winning dissident and a slap at the human rights record of officials in Beijing.
The white-stone compound currently sits at 3505 International Place NW, not far from the Panda House at the National Zoo.
But the amendment to the annual State Department spending bill, offered by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), instructs Secretary of State John Kerry to rename the street and declares: “For the purposes of United States Postal code, hereafter the proper address of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Washington, District of Columbia, shall be No. 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza.”
Wolf and other congressional representatives had called on the District government to make the change, but then figured out that the land was owned by the federal government and now are moving ahead on their own.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) 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.
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.
Chinese officials have voiced displeasure at the effort.
“We believe that the U.S. people will not like to see a U.S. street be named after a criminal,” an embassy spokesman said.
The Daily Beast
June 24, 2014
Congress Trolls China With a Street Name
By Tim Mak
Beijing's embassy in Washington could be in front of "Liu Xiaobo Plaza," an imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident.
A congressional committee trolled the Chinese government Tuesday by voting to rename the street in front of their embassy after a prominent Chinese dissident, imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo.
The Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. is currently located on "International Plaza," a street owned by the federal government. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), offered an amendment to the State Department spending bill requiring the Secretary of State to rename the area in front of the Chinese embassy Liu Xiaobo Plaza.
Originally, Wolf had gathered a broad bipartisan group of 14 congressmen, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate to Congress, to urge Washington D.C.'s city council to rename the area in front of the Chinese embassy, pegging the request to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
The move was meant to highlight Chinese human rights violations and send a message to the Chinese people that the United States is committed to human rights.
"By renaming the street in front of the Chinese Embassy after Dr. Liu, we 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," the 14 lawmakers wrote in May. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson responded by introducing a resolution supporting the effort.
But, as it turns out, the District's government doesn't own the land -- it doesn't even pick up trash there. Instead, the federal government does, and the State Department has authority to name the plaza. After Wolf learned of this, he offered an amendment to the State Department's spending bill.
Wolf told The Daily Beast that the idea for renaming the street had come from Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident who spent time in a Siberian labor camp and went on to become a notable Israeli politician.
Sharansky reminded members of Congress that in the 1980s, the street in front of the Soviet embassy in D.C. had been renamed Sakharov Plaza in honor of dissident Andrei Sakharov.
"This was really his idea," Wolf said. "He maintained that every time someone in the West spoke out for him, his life got better."
Sharansky has been working with David Keyes, the executive director of Advancing Human Rights, who has his eyes set on changing the names of streets in front of all the embassies of dictatorships, for example, Magnitsky Plaza for Russia, Tavakoli Plaza for Iran, and Darwish Plaza for Syria.
Since it is a nonpartisan issue, Wolf said he had high hopes his tweaking of the Chinese government would be adopted by the Senate.
"This is a freedom, democracy, liberty issue -- and not Republican and not Democrat," he said after the amendment passed. "I'm pleased, and I think it will be an inspiration Xiaobo's wife" and other dissidents around the world.
The House Appropriations Committee agreed by voice vote to Wolf's amendment Tuesday, pushing the issue forward for the full House's consideration.
Liu, a Chinese democracy activist, was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment in 2009. He was charged with "inciting subversion" after years of vocal opposition to the Chinese government and advocating for non-violent democratic reforms. In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China."