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State Department Plays Down Bid to Honor Chinese Dissident

FILE - A picture of Liu Xiaobo is carried by a protester demanding the dissident's release outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, Oct. 11, 2010.

President Barack Obama would veto a law proposed by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese Embassy to honor jailed Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, a State Department official said Tuesday.

Deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said that while the administration continues to press China to respect human rights and to release Liu, the bill complicates such efforts.

"We do not believe Senator Cruz's tactic to rename a street in Washington, D.C., is a very effective way to achieve either goal,” Toner said. “We view this kind of legislative action as something that really complicates our efforts. So we oppose this approach."

Toner added that the administration shared the same goal with Congress to improve human rights in China.

A file image shows an entrance to China's embassy in Washington, D.C.
A file image shows an entrance to China's embassy in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Senate last week passed a measure to name the plaza after Liu, which would potentially change the Chinese embassy's address in Washington to 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza.

Earlier, China's foreign ministry warned the United States there will be "serious consequences" if the plaza is renamed after the pro-democracy dissident.

The move "violated the basic norms of international relations," China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

China views Liu as a criminal. He was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for organizing a petition urging an end to one-party rule.

His Nobel award the following year outraged Beijing.

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