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Sen. Cruz: We Have a Moral Imperative to Speak for Freedom

Seeks unanimous consent to rename plaza in front of Chinese embassy after pro-democracy dissident and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Dr. Liu Xiaobo

October 22, 2015

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WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke on the Senate floor requesting unanimous consent on his resolution to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. as “Liu Xiaobo Plaza,” after Dr. Liu Xiaobo. Dr. Liu is a Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner who has been imprisoned for peacefully advocating for the basic political freedom denied to the Chinese people by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sen. Cruz on the floor in support of this effort to support human rights and denounce China’s oppressive actions.

“The United States has a long history of standing with dissidents and speaking out for human rights. When this body acted to rename the street in front of the Soviet Embassy ‘Sakharov Plaza,’ that was a powerful statement that helped bring condemnation of the world on the Soviet Union’s repressive human rights record,” Sen. Cruz said. “We should show the same bipartisan unanimity with regard to communist China. Standing together with a wrongfully imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate, we should say to the wrongfully imprisoned dissidents across the world: America hears you and we stand with you.”

“When the city of Washington, D.C…fights really hard not to rename a street, then you know you’re on the right track when you have those types of people in opposition to you,” Sen. Grassley said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) objected to Sen. Cruz’s request and prevented the resolution from moving forward. Previously, on the eve of President Xi’s visit in September, Sen. Feinstein blocked the same motion by Sen. Cruz.

Read Sen. Cruz’s and Sen. Grassley’s remarks below and watch the video here.

“Madam President, on October 15, 2015, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy released the following statement marking the five-year anniversary of the arrest of Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo. 

“This week marks the five-year anniversary that Liu Xia was placed under house arrest in China. She has never been charged with a crime and remains confined to her apartment because her husband, respected democracy activist Liu Xiabo, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Over the past five years, Liu Xia’s health has sharply deteriorated. She suffers from anxiety, depression, severe back pain, and had a heart attack last year. Her repeated requests to leave the country for medical treatment have been denied. 

“We urgently request that the Chinese government allow Liu Xia to seek medical treatment abroad and release Liu Xiaobo, the world’s only jailed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Such action would be a welcome humanitarian gesture.”

“I could not agree more with the very fine sentiments expressed by Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Leahy. That is exactly right - the United States should speak with one voice in support of human rights and against the disgrace that China has jailed this Nobel Peace Laureate. 

“My resolution, following in the tradition of legislation that renamed the street in front of the Soviet Embassy in honor of the heroic Russian dissident and Nobel Laureate Andrei Sakharov in 1984, would do the same. It would rename the street in front of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Embassy to be Liu Xiaobo Plaza after the equally heroic Chinese dissident and Nobel Laureate who had been brutally imprisoned by the PRC since 2009 for advocating for basic political freedom. 

“I would note that the original legislation naming the street in front of the Soviet Embassy in honor of Mr. Sakharov was introduced by my colleague, the senior senator from Iowa, Sen. Grassley, who is here with me today to support me in this request. 

“As I noted when I first asked for unanimous consent for this legislation on September 24, on the eve of President Xi’s visit to Washington, I for one, think as Americans, we should not be troubled by embarrassing communist oppressors, and this issue is not abstract to me. My family, like Dr. Liu, has been imprisoned by regimes. My father as a teenager was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba. He had his nose broken. He had his teeth shattered. He lay in the blood and grime of a prison cell. In Cuba, my aunt, my Tía Sonia, was a few years later tortured and imprisoned by Castro. My father by Batista, my aunt by Castro. Imprisoned and tortured by an oppressive regime. 

“The United States has a long history of standing with dissidents and speaking out for human rights. When this body acted to rename the street in front of the Soviet Embassy ‘Sakharov Plaza,’ that was a powerful statement that helped bring condemnation of the world on the Soviet Union’s repressive human rights record. We should show the same bipartisan unanimity with regard to communist China. Standing together with a wrongfully imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate, we should say to the wrongfully imprisoned dissidents across the world: America hears you and we stand with you. 

“Some years ago, I visited with Natan Sharansky in Jerusalem. He described how the prisoners in the Soviet Gulag would pass, from cell to cell, notes – “Did you hear what President Reagan said? Evil empire. Ash heap of history. Tear down this wall.”  

“What this body does makes a difference. What this country does makes a difference. And we should not forget our core values. I therefore ask unanimous consent that the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee be discharged from further consideration and that the Senate now proceed to S. Res. 224. I ask unanimous consent that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table.”

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“Madam President, I intend to continue pressing this resolution because I believe we have a moral imperative to speak for freedom. It’s one thing to put out press releases. It’s another thing to act. I agree with every word in the press release that was issued by Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Leahy, and my request is simply putting action to those words. 

“I tell you, when I visit with Chinese Americans in my state of Texas, I don’t want to have to look them in the eyes and tell them I stood with the Chinese communist government, the oppressors, instead of standing with Dr. Liu, instead of standing with a Nobel Peace Laureate for fear of embarrassing their oppressors. Madam President, there are a few things more powerful than embarrassment, than public sunshine. 

“When Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate and said, ‘Tear down this wall,’ he didn’t listen to the voice of timidity saying, ‘Well, that’s going to embarrass the Soviets.’ I would note in the White House, the staffers repeatedly crossed that line out of his speech. They said, ‘No, no, no, that will upset the Soviets. That will set us back diplomatically,’ the exact same argument, sadly the senior senator from California just presented. And each time President Reagan wrote that line back in with his own hand, explaining to those staffers, ‘You don’t understand – that is the entire point of giving the speech. That’s why I’m there. Because when we speak the truth, the truth has power.’ And this body, Democratic Senators in this body and Republican Senators in this body, should not be aiding and abetting the oppression of the Chinese government. We should be standing and speaking for truth and for freedom. 

“And we should be following the pattern that was successfully demonstrated by Sen. Grassley in introducing the resolution naming Sakharov Plaza in front of the Soviet Union, and with that, I will yield to my colleague, the senior senator from Iowa.”

Sen. Grassley: “I appreciate bringing up the history of the Andrei Sakharov Plaza. A lot of people wonder whether this makes much of a difference, what you’re trying to attempt in the case of Chinese Embassy. I can tell you, it made a big, big difference. And all you have to do is measure opposition, as we were considering the one that I introduced several years ago, when the State Department fights hard, hard, ‘Don’t embarrass the Russians.’ When the city of Washington, D.C…fights really hard not to rename a street, then you know you’re on the right track when you have those types of people in opposition to you.”

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