The Chinese Embassy in Washington blasted members of Congress for voting to rename its street address after an imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate in what was a clear — if somewhat juvenile — attempt to needle Beijing for its human rights record.
"This amendment is really absurd," embassy spokesman Geng Shuang told Foreign Policy in a statement.
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to rename the street of the Chinese Embassy "Liu Xiaobo Plaza" after the activist and writer sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for inciting subversion against the Chinese state. Liu contributed to the drafting of Charter 08, a petition urging China to uphold basic human rights and bring an end to one-party rule. China maintains Liu was lawfully prosecuted in accordance with the country’s laws.
"This attempt driven by some personal interests runs counter to the joint efforts by and interests of the vast majority of peoples in both China and the United States to pursue a win-win cooperative partnership between our two countries," said Geng.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the author of the amendment, said China needed to be reminded that Washington stands firm against gross human rights violations wherever they might occur.
"Renaming the street 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," said Wolf.
It’s unclear if the bill will win support in the Senate, but a broad coalition of House Republicans like Wolf, and Democrats like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have backed the effort. The chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Patty Murray, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Though few in the U.S. disagree about the legitimacy of Liu’s case, some question the value of openly poking China in the eye over the issue.
"This is the sort of symbolic shaming that the [People’s Republic of China] and many politically conscious Chinese really dislike," Richard Bush, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Foreign Policy. "Of course, what the regime did to Liu Xiaobo violated every reasonable moral standard, and this action will make some in the West feel good. But it will not speed his release by even one day."