Sen. Ted Cruz delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling for Dr. Liu Xiaobo’s release, and for the passage of legislation to rename the street in front of the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. as ‘Liu Xiaobo Plaza.’
Mr. President, I stand here today on behalf of a hero of freedom and democracy in the People’s Republic of China. Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia are the faces of liberty in China today, having sacrificed comfort and normalcy to chart a path toward political liberalization. For that, they have been detained, imprisoned, and abused.
In 2008, Liu Xiaobo coauthored ‘Charter 08,’ a manifesto that shined a light on the Communist Party of China and its totalitarian abuse of power. Though many brave souls signed their names, and their fates, to this document, Dr. Liu’s name was at the top.
For this reason, he received a Nobel Peace Prize, and he also received charges of ‘inciting subversion of state power,’ and an 11-year prison sentence.
“It is impossible to neglect this stark irony: a man, dedicated to non-violence, imprisoned for promoting peace.
Motivating Dr. Liu’s tremendous courage and self-sacrifice was a determination to remember what the PRC desperately wants the world to forget: Tiananmen Square.
A poet, author, and political scientist, Dr. Liu was in 1989 a visiting scholar at Columbia University. But when the pro-democracy protests broke out in Beijing in June of that year, he raced back to China to support them. He staged a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square in the midst of the historic student protests and insisted that they would remain non-violent, even in the face of the tanks, which the Chinese military deployed to smash them.
In 1996, the party subjected him to three years of ‘reeducation through labor’ for continuing to question China’s one-party system.
In 2008, on the eve of the 100 year anniversary of China’s first constitution and the 30 year anniversary of Beijing’s ‘Democracy Wall’ movement, Liu dedicated his work on ‘Charter 08′ to the martyrs at Tiananmen Square.
Today, eight years into his unjust imprisonment, Dr. Liu needs our help more than ever.
Last month, it was revealed that Liu had contracted an aggressive, late-stage form of liver cancer. Although the PRC authorities ‘released’ him ‘on medical parole,’ both Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia linger without freedom.
And even worse, Liu Xiaobo is dying. His condition is critical, and we are running out of time to act on his behalf.
Although Chinese authorities compelled the Liu’s to sign an affidavit allegedly attesting to their satisfaction with the medical care they have received in China and their wish to remain there, Liu Xia has communicated to their attorney their desire to spend Liu Xiaobo’s final days in America.
PRC doctors insist that Dr. Liu was too ill to travel, but medical experts from the U.S. and Germany, one of them being Dr. Joseph Herman of the MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center of the University of Texas, visited Liu and attested to the contrary.
Issuing a joint statement, they agreed that Dr. Liu ‘can be safely transported with appropriate medical evacuation care and support.’ They then issued this stark warning: ‘However, the medical evacuation would have to take place as quickly as possible.
The urgency of this situation goes beyond Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xia’s livelihood is inextricably linked to the ability of the two of them to leave China.
Due to his imprisonment, Liu Xiaobo has been unable to receive his $1.5 million prize money from the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The holdup of transferring the funds is merely routine: a signed form from Dr. Liu and an open bank account with his name on it. But China has prevented these technical steps from progressing.
If Liu Xiaobo dies without receiving this account, Liu Xia will be left destitute with no money. I shudder to think what such a life would hold for the wife of China’s boldest political prisoner.
Only one man stands between a dying man’s wish and his wife’s livelihood, and freedom: Xi Jinping.
Although no one action can undo the turmoil the Liu’s have suffered over the past 28 years, it is not too late to do the right thing and to allow this man and his wife to spend their last days together according to their wishes.
It would not be the first time Xi made a similar decision. Earlier this year, he agreed after consultations with the Trump administration to release an imprisoned Houstonian, Sandy Phan-Gillis, who was incarcerated on false charges. Although nothing could bring back the two years of separation from her family, they are now reunited, something I spent considerable time urging.
And lest Xi forget, even Kim Jong-un, the dictator in North Korea, allowed Otto Warmbier, a young American college student from Ohio in the prime of his life before torture and abuse left him in a coma, to return home for his final hours. Surely Xi can show the same degree of humanity shown by Kim Jong-un.
In 2015, I came to this floor and asked on three separate occasions for unanimous consent to pass my bill to rename the street in front of the Chinese embassy after Liu Xiaobo. Over and over again, sadly, Democratic senators stood up and objected, stymied this effort. Each time that I advocated on behalf of Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, my colleagues expressed procedural concerns: ‘This is counterproductive! Doing this will only antagonize China.’ Well some of us are less concerned about antagonizing Chinese communist dictators. My fellow senators assured me that they have negotiated the release of many political prisoners behind the scenes – well that is wonderful, and I encourage them to do so now in the few days and weeks Liu Xiaobo has ahead of him.
Even so, even despite repeated Democratic objections, repeated Democratic obstructionism, ultimately the United States Senate passed my bill by voice vote in the 114th Congress, and the reason at the time was evident: China’s stubbornness wrongly imprisoning a Nobel Peace laureate required public action to force the issue.
The end goal has never been to merely rename a street, but rather to use that action to shine light on the Liu’s and to pressure the PRC to do the right thing. No member can explain the success of this tactic better than my good friend Senator Grassley, the senior senator from Iowa, who led a very similar effort in 1984 to rename the street in front of the Soviet embassy after Andrei Sakharov, the famed Soviet dissident. Senator Grassley led that effort under Ronald Reagan, and when the street was renamed, it meant any time a Soviet had to write to their embassy, they had to write Sakharov’s name. It meant any time you had to pick up the phone and call the embassy and say ‘where exactly do find the embassy,’ they had to give the address and highlight the dissident. For the P.R.C., they do not want to highlight Liu Xiaobo because he is a powerful voice for freedom and against tyranny.
Just as it worked against the Soviet Union and Reagan demonstrated public shaming, shining light, telling the truth can being down the machinery of oppression, so too, can public shining light, secure Dr. Liu’s freedom.
As we stand here today, we don’t know if Xi is going to allow Dr. Liu to come to freedom, to live out his last days in peace, and to receive the Nobel Peace prize that he was so justly rewarded. If XI does the right thing, we can all commend that action, but if not, I am announcing my intention to continue to press this bill.
To seek its passage again in this Congress, just as the Senate passed it in the prior Congress, I intend to press forward and seek passage of this bill, and if Dr. Liu is not released, if he dies in China still under their oppression, I intend to continue to fight until the day when the street is named in front of the embassy and the Chinese communist can bow their heads in shame at their injustice. If they don’t want to be publicly shamed, there is an easy path. Don’t commit shameful acts. Truth has power. Sunshine and light has power. And so I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrat, if there is an issue that should unite us all, it is that a Nobel Peace laureate speaking out for peace and democracy should not be wrongly imprisoned in communist China.
That should bring us together, and the full force of the United States. I commend President Trump for leading on this issue and I am hopeful that China will see its way to do the right thing.