Bipartisan House Members Call on D.C. to Rename Street in Front of Chinese Embassy for Imprisoned Dissident

Saturday, May 31, 2014
Liu Xiaobo (R) with wife Liu Xia

Borrowing a page from the Cold War, members of Congress from both parties have suggested that the city of Washington, D.C., rename the street in front of the Chinese embassy after a renowned political dissident locked away in prison.


In August 1984, the nation’s capital renamed the square in front of the Soviet Union’s embassy in honor of dissident Andrei Sakharov. Now, some Democrats and Republicans want part of International Place in northwest Washington named after Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Prize winner who has spent two stints in jail for his pro-democracy activism.


 “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,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray and the District of Columbia Council.


Those backing the renaming of the street include Representative Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who is the District of Columbia’s delegate in Congress.


The request comes ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989. Liu, then a professor at Columbia University, traveled to China to support the demonstrators and to urge non-violent protest. For his actions, he was thrown in prison for two years, followed by three years of “reeducation through labor” for questioning the supremacy of the Communist Party.


In 2009, he was charged and convicted of trying to subvert the Beijing government, resulting in an 11-year sentence. The following year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Chinese Embassy's Street in U.S. Urged Renamed for Dissident (Agence France-Presse)

D.C. Officials to be Asked to Rename Chinese Embassy Street after Imprisoned Laureate (by Bridget Johnson, PJ Tatler)

Liu Xiaobo, China (PEN America)

Liu Xiaobo Fifth Nobel Peace Prize Winner Not Allowed to Attend Ceremony (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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