Press Releases

Rename the Chinese Embassy Street Name After the Coronavirus Whistleblower
By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
May 13, 2020
Newsweek
 
Many Americans have not yet heard his name, but Dr. Li Wenliang was a hero who shared early news of the coronavirus outbreak and defied efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to silence him as part of its coronavirus cover-up. We cannot let him be forgotten, nor allow his memory to be appropriated by the CCP. Dr. Li's ordeal represents the CCP's efforts not only to cover up the outbreak, but also to silence those who do not tow the party line.
 
For that reason, I joined my Senate colleagues, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), in introducing legislation to commemorate Dr. Li's life and sacrifice in Washington by renaming the street outside the Chinese embassy as Li Wenliang Plaza.
 
Dr. Li's story is harrowing. On December 30, Li received a message on WeChat, a widely used and heavily monitored social media platform, with the test results of an early coronavirus patient in Wuhan thought to have pneumonia. Those test results suggested the pneumonia was caused by SARS or a similar disease. He forwarded that message to a WeChat group of medical school classmates, warning them that they needed to get the word out to friends and family. The message went viral.
 
That same day, Wuhan health authorities banned medical personnel from saying anything publicly about the then-unknown pneumonia. Li was soon thereafter interrogated by the police and forced to sign a statement that spreading the information about coronavirus was "illegal behavior." Chinese media reported that police arrested seven people for "spreading rumors," a charge regularly used to silence those who disagree with the CCP's party line.
 
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Now, in the face of overwhelming evidence of its cover-up, the CCP has been forced to exonerate him and offer an apology to his family. They have even gone so far as to name him a "martyr."
 
Shortly before his death, Dr. Li told The New York Times that "[i]f the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier...it would have been a lot better." He also called for more "openness and transparency."
 
By renaming the street outside the Chinese embassy, Americans can honor those values and ensure Dr. Li's memory is never extinguished. There is also precedent for this move. In 2017, I introduced legislation to rename the street in front of the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. after the slain Russia opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov. Today, the street on Wisconsin Avenue bears his name after successful efforts in coordination with the D.C. City Council.
 
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We owe Dr. Li a great debt of gratitude for informing the world about coronavirus in the face of the Chinese Communist Party's totalitarian attempts to silence him. Renaming the street outside of the Chinese embassy will ensure that his name is remembered independently of the CCP's attempts to claim him. It will also serve as a critical reminder to all governments that the United States will always stand with oppressed voices across the world.