WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Tuesday that the president would veto legislation to rename the area in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington after a prominent Chinese political prisoner.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that the bill proposed by Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, which has passed the Senate, would only complicate efforts to impress upon China the need to respect human rights and release Liu Xiaobo.
Liu is a Nobel laureate serving an 11-year sentence on the conviction of inciting state subversion after calling for democratic reforms
The proposal has already raised hackles in China, which said it violated fundamental principles of international relations.
"If the bill becomes law, it will lead to serious consequences. We demand the U.S. Congress stop reviewing the bill, and also hope the U.S. administration could put an end to such a political drama," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.
Cruz's bill would make "1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza" the official address of the embassy. Its current address is 3505 International Place. The bill still needs House approval and then President Barack Obama's signature.
Toner said the White House has indicated Obama would veto it.
"We view this kind of legislative action as something that only complicates our efforts so we oppose this approach," Toner said in Washington. "It's our desire to work more productively and cooperatively with Congress on ways to address our shared goal of improving human rights in China."
Cruz said in a statement Tuesday that the veto threat showed the administration's "eagerness to coddle an authoritarian Communist regime at the expense of pro-American dissidents." He said it was ironic that Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, wants to veto a bill honoring the 2010 prize winner, Liu.
Associated Press writers Christopher Bodeen in Beijing and Donna Cassata in Washington contributed to this report.