White House opposes bill to rename Chinese Embassy address for dissident Liu Xiaobo

A pro-democracy demonstrator holds a portrait of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo during a protest in Hong Kong on Dec 25, 2015
A pro-democracy demonstrator holds a portrait of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo during a protest in Hong Kong on Dec 25, 2015PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House said on Tuesday that President Barack Obama is prepared to veto legislation that would rename part of a Washington street after an imprisoned Chinese Nobel laureate.

The bill - introduced by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz - would rename the area in front of the Chinese Embassy "Liu Xiaobo Plaza" after the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

China on Tuesday strongly condemned the bill.

The State Department said the bill, which has passed the Senate, would only complicate efforts to get China to release Liu.

"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," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said during a news conference.

Passage of the bill would mean the Chinese Embassy's new address would be "1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza".

China on Tuesday threatened "serious consequences" if the legislation takes effect, calling on the US administration to end a "political drama."

Cruz - an ultra-conservative senator - said in a statement on Tuesday that Obama's veto threat shows his "eagerness to coddle an authoritarian Communist regime at the expense of pro-American dissidents."

Liu was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for inciting state subversion after calling for democratic reforms. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

China's communist regime has cracked down on dissidents under President Xi Jinping, arresting dozens of activists, lawyers and intellectuals.