D.C.-area Dems are among the lawmakers who have signed on to Rep. Frank Wolf’s (R-Va.) call to pay tribute to a human rights hero and make sure Chinese diplomats see his name every day.
Wolf put together a letter asking District officials to consider renaming the street that runs outside of the Chinese Embassy — International Place — after Liu Xiaobo.
A longtime pro-democracy and human rights activist, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas 2009 after his lawyers were allowed to argue his case for only 14 minutes. The charge was “inciting subversion” against the communist state.
Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia in 2010.
The request was signed by Reps. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.), Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
It was timed to coincide with the approaching 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
“While a quarter of a century has passed since that infamous event, egregious Chinese human rights violations are regrettably as much a reality in the present as they are a studied subject of the past. The case of the imprisoned Nobel Laureate, Dr. Liu Xiaobo, serves as a stark reminder to the world that China’s human rights abuses are as bad, if not worse, today,” the lawmakers wrote to Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. council members.
In response to Liu’s Nobel prize, the Chinese government placed his wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest, where she remains without charge. “In fact a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Reverend Desmond Tutu, recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, and Jared Genser, the international counsel to Liu Xiaobo reported the following about her plight, ‘Despite living in the middle of one of the busiest and most populous cities in the world, Liu Xia, a poet and a painter, is cut off and alone. Chinese security officials sit outside her front door and at the entrance to her apartment building…. Under these conditions, her physical and mental health are rapidly declining. In January, Liu Xia, 51, suffered a heart attack and was taken to a hospital, only to be discharged the following day. She is reported to suffer from severe depression. Previously, Liu Xia had refused to seek medical help because she was afraid of further punishment. Her suffering is profound and inhumane. Liu Xia has no ability to challenge her illegal detention.'”
“In light of these realities, we write to seek your partnership in bringing renewed international attention to Chinese human rights violations. Specifically we ask your cooperation in renaming the section of International Place which runs past the Chinese Embassy in D.C. after Dr. Liu Xiaobo. There is precedent for such an action: In the 1980s, the street in front of the Soviet Embassy in Washington was renamed ‘Sakharov Plaza,’ after anti-Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov,” the letter continues.
“By renaming the street in front of the Chinese Embassy after Dr. Liu, we 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. The timing is auspicious for such a move with the Tiananmen anniversary fast approaching. This modest effort would undoubtedly give hope to the Chinese people who continue to yearn for basic human rights and representative democracy and would remind their oppressors that they are in fact on the wrong side of history.”
“Some may argue that this is purely a symbolic gesture,” Wolf said at a U.S.-China Commission hearing last month. “But symbols have power.”