China slams US lawmakers over proposal to name street after jailed activist Liu Xiaobo

BEIJING (AFP) - Beijing on Friday slammed as "provocative" a proposal by US lawmakers to rename the street outside China's Washington embassy in honour of the jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Mr Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 on a charge of "incitement to subversion of state power", based in part on his spearheading of Charter 08, a petition urging greater protection of human rights and democratic reforms in China.

A diverse group of members of the US House of Representatives said that changing the name of a section of the road would embolden Chinese rights campaigners.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei called the suggestion a "provocative action" at a regular press briefing.

"Liu Xiaobo is a man who has violated Chinese laws, he has been convicted by the Chinese judicial authorities," he added.

The writer and long term activist was awarded his Nobel in 2010, incensing China's Communist authorities, who deal harshly with dissidents and other potential threats to their authority.

His wife Liu Xia, 53, has not been charged with any crime but has been held under house arrest since then.

The lawmakers' announcement came as the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit organisation funded by the US Congress, dedicated its annual award to Mr Liu and another imprisoned activist, Xu Zhiyong.

Mr Xu was sentenced in January to four years in prison for supporting demonstrations that urged government officials to disclose their assets.

During the Cold War, Washington renamed the street in front of the Soviet embassy in honour of dissident Andrei Sakharov.