New Bill Seeks to Rename Plaza in DC After Chinese Dissident

Federal lawmakers have introduced legislation to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C. after a Chinese pro-democracy dissident jailed in China since 2008, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced Tuesday.

Cruz, who won Monday's Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa, first introduced his own bill in the Senate on Jan. 20 asking for the plaza to be named in honor of Liu Xiaobo, a 60-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner who participated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.

Cruz’s bill, cosponsored by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and fellow presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL), would also designate the Chinese embassy’s official address as “1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) has also introduced a version of the Senate bill in the House of Representatives, Cruz said in the statement.

“I believe that we have a moral responsibility not to marginalize Dr. Liu and his brave fellow dissidents, but to make their plight central to all our dealings with the [People’s Republic of China],” Cruz said. “This would be the street sign that the Chinese ambassador would look at each day. This would be the address that every piece of correspondence going into the embassy and coming out of the embassy would have written on it.”

An email sent Wednesday morning to the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C. seeking comment was not returned.

A year and a half after beginning his term in office, Cruz sponsored a non-binding resolution in June 2014 to rename International Plaza in D.C. to recognize Liu. That resolution enjoyed bipartisan support, according to the Washington Post, but is still pending.

Last July, Cruz introduced two new Senate resolutions on the same day to rename separate locations in Washington: one was for Liu and the other for Oswaldo Paya, a Cuban dissident killed in a 2012 car crash that some say was the work of the Cuban government. Cruz is of Cuban heritage.

Image: Activists mark jailed nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo birthday
Activists with the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China celebrate the 60th birthday of imprisoned human rights activist and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong, China, 28 December 2015. Liu is currently incarcerated as a political prisoner in China for calling for political reforms and the end of communist single-party rule. JEROME FAVRE / EPA

In September, before Chinese President Xi Jinping was to arrive in the U.S., Cruz went on the Senate floor to try and get colleagues to pass his 2015 “Liu Xiaobo Plaza” resolution, the Associated Press reported. At the time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) raised objections, saying there were political implications to consider because of the timing, according to the AP.

Cruz tried one more time in October, but again ran up against opposition from Feinstein, according to The Hill. Feinstein said she had played a role in securing the release of political dissidents from China, but did so by talking with the Chinese government, The Hill reported.

“I think to do this in this way will set back the cause,” she said of Cruz’s resolution, according to The Hill.

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