The pitfalls of using Liu Xiaobo’s name in a silly American political game
Yonden Lhatoo criticises US senator Ted Cruz and his campaign to rename the Chinese embassy address in Washington after Liu Xiaobo, and warns that two can play this petty game
The world has condemned China and history will judge it for the death of Liu Xiaobo, prisoner of conscience, writer and Nobel laureate.
There’s nothing to add to the chorus of criticism against the Chinese government that hasn’t been said already, but let’s talk about a spin-off from the fallout that is shaping into a political farce.
The dissident’s death has provided the perfect vehicle for American politicians to engage in some good old China bashing and grandstanding. Senator Ted Cruz is leading the charge in reviving his push to rename the address of China’s embassy in Washington, D.C. from “3505 International Place” to “1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza”.
He’s optimistic that both Congress and the White House will support the bill he’s touting. Cruz has tried it before without success, but this time he’s counting on bipartisan backing because of widespread sympathy for Liu and, of course, an unorthodox president who’s capable of saying or doing anything.
For those who need reminding, Cruz is no human rights champion. He’s an evangelical Christian fanatic and a homophobic and transphobic bigot, to start with. You will all probably remember him best as “Lying Ted”, the quivering heap of jelly that Donald Trump reduced him to in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Chinese foreign ministry has gone on the record before to condemn this kind of political provocation, threatening “severe consequences” if Cruz’s bill were to become law. Beijing is bound to up the ante if this hare-brained scheme actually gains traction.
But if you think about it, instead of getting so worked up, why not just hit back with an easy tit-for-tat response: rename the American embassy address in Beijing after US dissidents, for a start.
So, “55 Anjialou Road” can be christened “1 Chelsea Manning Road”, for example. One man’s traitor is another’s hero. The former American soldier, who was jailed for leaking documents that exposed dirty secrets such as US military atrocities in Iraq, deserves to be honoured, just like Liu – and she’s still alive to appreciate it.
And how deliciously ironic it would be for a holier-than-thou Bible-thumper like Cruz to unwittingly help lionise a transgender woman to boot.
Two can play at this silly game, see? Nude people in glass houses should never throw stones. There’s a handy verse in the Bible for religious nutters in American politics like Cruz: “Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”
And if this should blow up into a petty, bloody-minded war, there’s an unlimited arsenal of awkward names to insult each other with. “Saddam Hussein Road”, anyone?
I have pointed out in this space before that America mislaid its moral compass a long time ago, and now, with Trump running the show like a bull in a China shop, it’s in no position to preach human rights to the world. Physician, heal thyself.
Speaking of what’s in a name, this week marked the 44th anniversary of the death of Hong Kong’s greatest son, Bruce Lee, and there’s still no word on whether we’ll ever name a road, building or even street kiosk after him.
After Tsang lost the election, I filed the same question to the office of the winner, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Not even the courtesy of a reply yet. I suppose she has better things to do – unlike Cruz and company.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post