Annoyed by Congress’s decision Tuesday to rename the street the Chinese embassy is on after an imprisoned Chinese dissident, embassy officials lashed out, calling the measure “really absurd.”
Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, who spearheaded the change, said that renaming the street after Dr. Liu Xiaobo — currently the only imprisoned Nobel Peace Price winner — “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.” (RELATED: Americans Completely Reliant On China For Antibiotics)
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman called the move “a complete farce” on Wednesday. Chinese commenters online have suggested that the Chinese government respond in kind and rename the U.S. embassy’s street after Edward Snowden or Monica Lewinsky. (RELATED: Chinese State Media Will ‘Severely Punish’ Google And Apple For NSA Spying)
The embassy is currently on International Place, which is owned by the federal government, not the District of Columbia. The change was passed as part of the 2015 Department of State funding bill, which, if passed by the Senate, will mean that every single piece of mail received by the embassy will bear the jailed dissident’s name. Xiaobo was first detained by the Chinese government in 2008 for helping write the Charter 08 manifesto, which demanded basic human rights like freedom of religion, expression and association. (RELATED: Dean of Chinese University Bans Students From Tiananmen Square Rallies)
The amendment passed the committee with bipartisan support, and now moves to the House floor. Non-committee members from both parties — including Nancy Pelosi — have expressed support for the measure.
There is precedent for the name change: In 1984, the Senate Appropriations Committee changed the Soviet embassy’s address to Sakharov Plaza, after nuclear physicist, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Sakharov had been arrested and exiled to Nizhny Novgorod in 1980 for protesting the Soviet war in Afghanistan. According to the Library of Congress, the area is called Sakharov Plaza to this day, although the modern Russian embassy is in a different location.