The D.C. Council is considering two bills that would symbolically rename two streets — one for a Chinese dissident and the other for the city's fight for voting representation in Congress.
The first bill would rename a portion of International Place NW, which runs in front of the Chinese Embassy, after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who took part in the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square and in 2009 was sentenced to 11 years in prison for allegedly attempting to subvert the country's government.
The renaming was called for by 13 members of Congress in May, and the legislators asked the D.C. Council to adopt the bill in the spirit of partnership. (The street is located on federal property.) In the 1980s, the U.S. Senate renamed a portion of 16th Street NW in front of the Soviet Embassy "No. 1 Andrei Sakharov Plaza," after the dissident.
"There are times when the naming of a street, even symbolically, can advance the cause of human rights in the world," said Council Chairman Phil Mendelson during the introduction of the bill.
According to Reuters, in May the Chinese Foreign Ministry called the proposed move "provocative and ignorant behavior."
Mendelson also introduced a bill that would rename First Street NE and First Street SE between Independence and Constitution avenues — which flank the U.S. Capitol — "D.C. No Taxation Without Representation Way."
"I think that it's important that this measure is being introduced at the same time as the last measure, because if we're going to be talking about human rights, then we should use that opportunity to remind citizens that the citizens of the District of Columbia do not have the same rights and privileges as do all the other citizens of the United States of America," said Mendelson.
In 2008, the D.C. Council attempted to rename South Capitol Street in front of Nationals Park "Taxation Without Representation Street," and in 2011 the Council debated renaming a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue NW to recognize the city's fight for statehood.