(CNSNews.com) – A Communist Party-affiliated Chinese newspaper berated U.S. senators Sunday for passing a bill to rename of the street in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington in honor of a jailed Chinese dissident, describing those responsible as “vile characters.”
The bill to name the street for Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel peace prize winner, passed unanimously Friday. It was introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and co-sponsored by Cruz’ fellow Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
The alteration will change the embassy’s official address from 3505 International Place to 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza, meaning the name of the reviled dissident will appear on mail received by the mission.
Liu, a writer jailed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, was arrested again in 2008 after he helped to draft a manifesto, Charter 08, advocating peaceful political reform in China.
Tried for “inciting subversion of state power,” he was convicted and sentenced in Dec. 2009 to 11 years’ imprisonment, plus deprivation of political rights for two years.
Global Times in an editorial characterized the initiative to rename the street after Liu as a reflection of the limited options available to the U.S. in dealing with an increasingly powerful China.
“The U.S. has been at its wits’ end in dealing with China as it is reluctant to employ military threats or economic sanctions that may backfire,” it said. “The only option for Washington seems to be petty actions that disturb China.”
Such measures, it said, “can help China better understand what vile characters it will meet during its rise and face whatever awkwardness comes by dealing with them.”
The editorial said Liu had become a “tool of the West” as external forces like the United States try to deal with China’s rise.
“U.S. senators and a few Chinese dissidents they support may think that their behavior can throw dust in the eyes of Chinese,” it said. “But they may have underestimated how discerning Chinese people can be.”
Describing China as a “resilient and dynamic” country with a “brilliant performance” in countering the West’s moves, Global Times said its development “seems to have given lots of stress to some narrow-minded U.S. elites and prompted their gaffes.”
China has reacted angrily to any Western attempt to recognize Liu, particularly the 2010 Nobel award.
State media accused him of working together with “anti-China forces” in a bid to overturn the communist state.
“By rumor-mongering and libeling, [Charter 08] denies the people’s democratic dictatorship, socialism and the unitary state structure stipulated in the Chinese Constitution,” China Daily said in a 2010 commentary.
When Cruz last fall sought unanimous consent to move ahead with the street renaming, ahead of a visit to the U.S. by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) objected, arguing that it could harm U.S. diplomacy with Beijing. That prompted Cruz to accuse her of choosing “to align herself with the Communist party dictators rather than a Nobel peace laureate.”
This time, its passage came after Cruz lifted a “hold” on several administration nominees to ambassadorships and senior State Department positions. (Cruz had held up the confirmations in protest of the Iran nuclear deal.)
In return, Democrats did not object to the Liu Xiaobo measure, which passed by voice vote.
A companion bill in the House was introduced earlier this month by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
In 2014, then-Rep Frank Wolf (R-Va.) put forward an amendment to appropriations legislation that would have had the same effect as Cruz’ pill passed on Friday. Wolf called it “a symbolic – but strong – message that the United States is committed to advocating for the protection of basic human rights worldwide.”
The provocative move recalls the 1980s naming of a section of 16th Street N.W. – then home to the Soviet Embassy, today the Russian ambassador’s residence – for the Soviet dissident, Andrei Sakharov.
At the time the Senate rejected a State Department argument that the move would be violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations’ obligation that host governments ensure the “dignity” of foreign diplomatic missions is not impaired.