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U.S. Foreign Policy on China Hits the Streets

U.S. Foreign Policy on China Hits the Streets

Call it soft power — or, perhaps, passive-aggressive nomenclature. The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday voted to rename a portion of International Place N.W., on which the Chinese Embassy in Washington sits, after an imprisoned Chinese dissident.

Liu Xiaobo Plaza is the House panel’s way of telling China to stop violating human rights. And to release the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Republican Frank Wolf of Virginia successfully offered the name change as an amendment to the 2015 State Department and foreign operations appropriation. The paragraph-long measure would require the secretary of state to change the embassy’s address to No. 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza N.W. within 45 days of the bill becoming law.

Inspired by the 1980s redubbing of the plaza outside the Russian embassy after anti-Soviet activist Andrei Sakharov, the move was originally proposed in a November Wall Street Journal op-ed. In May, a bipartisan group of 13 lawmakers joined D.C. City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson in asking Mayor Vincent Gray to make the change leading up to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Confusion over who exactly owns the street delayed action.

International Place N.W. is federally owned. Changing the name will require the president’s signature, not city-council approval, a spokesman for Wolf said. Still, Mendelson wants the city council to approve a resolution supporting the name change next month.

The world’s only imprisoned Nobel Laureate, the 58-year-old Xiaobo is a veteran of the Tiananmen protests who’s serving an 11-year sentence attributed to his authoring of the Charter 08 petition against one-party rule. At the end of May, Reuters reported that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang condemned efforts to change the street name as "provocative and ignorant behavior," adding that Xiaobo violated Chinese law and sentenced by its judiciary.