House Appropriations Committee Approves Renaming Street In Front Of Chinese Embassy After Prominent Jailed Dissident
Washington, D.C. – The bipartisan effort to have the section of International Place NW that runs in front of the Chinese Embassy named after Dr. Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner presently jailed in China, received a big boost in Congress today.
The full House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote an amendment to the FY 2015 spending bill that funds the State Department to rename the portion of the street.
The amendment was offered by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) after learning that the street is owned by the federal government and not the District of Columbia. The amendment directs the Secretary of State to officially rename the section of International Place that runs directly in front of the Chinese Embassy “Liu Xiaobo Plaza” and post accompanying street signs. For purposes of U.S. Postal code, the embassy’s address would change to No. 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza so that every piece of incoming mail to the embassy would bear the name of the imprisoned Nobel laureate.
In May, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress, including several from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, asked the District of Columbia to rename the street as a way to highlight Liu’s unjust imprisonment and send a symbolic – but strong – message that the United States is committed to advocating for the protection of basic human rights worldwide.
The group cited as precedent congressional action in the 1980s to rename the street in front of the Soviet Embassy in Washington ‘Sakharov Plaza,’ after jailed dissident Andrei Sakharov. The letter was timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China. in which Dr. Liu took part and marked the start of his peaceful, pro-democracy efforts.
Wolf subsequently met with D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson who on June 17 introduced a Sense of the Council Resolution supporting the effort. The chairman has indicated that he intends to move the resolution prior to the July Council recess.
During committee debate of the measure, Wolf implored his colleagues to support the amendment, asking how Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Václav Havel and Pope John Paul II, among others, would vote on the amendment if they were there today.
“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, long recognized as a leading human rights activist in Congress. He also noted that the idea was first brought to his attention during a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing earlier this year during which famed Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky testified on the impact of such symbolic gestures, saying they are the “best reminder that the world cares, that the world remembers.”