China's Embassy in Washington Could Find Itself on 'Liu Xiaobo Plaza'

2016-02-15
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A human rights activist holds a banner during a rally marking the 60th birthday of imprisoned Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong on Dec. 28, 2015.
AFP

China's official media has hit out at moves by U.S. politicians to rename the street in Washington where its embassy is located after jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, accusing the Senate of "provoking" Beijing.

Last Friday, the Senate unanimously passed legislation to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy in Washington "Liu Xiaobo Plaza."

"Detained in 2008, Dr. Liu continues to be unjustly imprisoned under the authority of [Chinese] President Xi Jinping," the Senate said in a news release after the vote.

The bill is now headed to the House of Representatives for consideration, it said.

The nationalist tabloid Global Times, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said the move was "rash" and "provocative."

"The apparently provocative move intends to outrage and unsettle China,” the Global Times said in an editorial on Sunday.

"But this is no big deal. In addition to anger, it will enable us to learn more about the U.S. from another perspective: The U.S. has big problems in abiding by the rules and keeping self-respect and its Congress acts so rashly," it said.

Senate Bill 2451 was authored by Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and is intended to honor Liu, who is currently serving an 11-year sentence for "incitement to subvert state power."

Liu, 60, is unlikely to qualify for parole, because he has never admitted to committing any crime.

Since his Nobel prize was announced in 2010 to the fury of Beijing, Liu's wife Liu Xia has remained under house arrest and close police surveillance at the couple's home.

Reminder to 're-think this issue'

Independent writer Liu Di, who is a close friend of the Lius, welcomed the move.

"I very much welcome this decision by the U.S. Senate, because it [could mean] that they see Liu Xiaobo's name every time they get a letter, which will act as a reminder to the Chinese government to re-think this issue," Liu Di said.

"I hope this would be helpful, although I couldn't rule out the possibility that the opposite would be true," she said. "But I think it could have the effect of improving their circumstances."

She said it was unclear how the move would affect Liu Xia, however.

"What happens to Liu Xia largely depends on what happens to Liu Xiaobo," Liu Di said. "And even if they released Liu Xiaobo, they could still keep them under house arrest."

Infuriate Beijing further

Hong Kong activist Richard Choi, of the the Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, said any change of the embassy's address would likely infuriate Beijing further.

"It's hard to say how a name change [if it happened] would affect Liu Xia, but some international attention and concern is always better than no international attention or concern, where Chinese right activists are concerned," Choi said.

"Liu Xia has been cruelly treated over the past few years, and ... more focus on her case will, I think, definitely have a positive effect," he said.

A literary critic and former professor, Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" in a decision that infuriated Beijing, which says he has broken Chinese law.

He has been held since 2008 after helping to draft Charter 08, a manifesto calling for sweeping changes in China's government that was signed by thousands of supporters.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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Anonymous Reader

The punitive house arrest of Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia has no legal basis, either in China or internationally. It is an act of state-sanctioned hostage taking to extend the state's draconian punishment of Liu Xiaobo to Liu's family members. It runs counter to civilized practices in the world, and is evidence of the depths of depravity to which a single-party authoritarian regime can sink in lashing out against non-violent advocates of constitutionalism, rule of law, and popular election of national leaders.

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