Wednesday, February 17, 2016

China calls Ted Cruz bill a 'political farce'

by Nicole Gaouette, CNN
7:07 PM ET, Tue February 16, 2016
CNN Politics

Washington (CNN)Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz drew fire from a new quarter Tuesday, when the Chinese government tore into the Texas senator for a bill he pushed through the Senate last week.

The legislation would rename a part of the street across from China's embassy after a pro-democracy activist jailed by Beijing. It would effectively change the embassy's address to "1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza," after the Nobel Peace Prize winner serving an 11-year sentence in part for publishing an anti-Communist manifesto calling for political freedoms.

China's Foreign Ministry blasted Cruz's bill as a "political farce" and warned that it would have serious repercussions for its relationship with the U.S if it were to pass the House and become law. The measure cleared the Senate in a unanimous voice vote on Friday.

Victoria Coates, Cruz's national security advisor, told CNN that the candidate understands the U.S. has strong ties to China and that he doesn't want to be "overtly antagonistic."

But she said Cruz feels that human rights have been ignored "since the beginning of the Obama administration, since Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton went to Beijing in February 2009 and said we were going to have a separate track for human rights. The Chinese said they interpreted that as human rights on the back burner."

The tiff comes as President Barack Obama meets in California with Southeast Asian leaders, in part to discuss increasingly assertive Chinese moves in the South China Sea and reassure China's neighbors that the U.S. is committed to protecting their interests in the region.

RELATED: Terrorism on agenda as Obama hosts Southeast Asian leaders

"If the relevant bill is passed into law, it will cause serious consequences," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement, which also called Cruz's bill "contrary to the basic norms" of international relations.

"We demand the U.S. Senate stop promoting the bill and hope the U.S. executive authorities put an end to this political farce," the spokesman said.

A White House official, speaking anonymously to discuss sensitive issues, dismissed Cruz's bill as a "stunt."

"While we continue to impress upon China the imperative of respecting human rights and releasing Liu Xiaobo, as well as other political prisoners, we do not believe Sen. Cruz's ploy to rename a street in Washington, D.C., is an effective way to achieve either goal," the official said. "In fact, legislative stunts such as this complicate our efforts."

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Ted Cruz Feb 2016   REUTERS-Rick Wilking

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