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Republicans introduce bill to rename Chinese embassy street after coronavirus whistleblower

President Donald Trump took heat from liberals last week for telling an Asian-American reporter to “ask China” about the death and mayhem caused by COVID-19.

At this point, it’s doubtful anyone who did so would get a straight answer from the Chinese government. On Monday, in fact, Chinese President Xi Jinping maintained that his government acted with “openness, transparency and responsibility” in dealing with COVID-19.

But Sen. Marco Rubio has no doubt that China is wholly at fault for the catastrophic pandemic that, according to Johns Hopkins University, has killed more than 315,000 people worldwide and nearly 90,000 in the U.S. And the Florida Republican seeks to remind the public, as well as Chinese officials in America, about the role China’s government played in allowing the coronavirus to spread around the globe.

Rubio and three other GOP lawmakers — Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee — have introduced a bill that would rename the street in front of China’s embassy in Washington the Li Wenliang Plaza.

Li was an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital who first brought COVID-19 to the attention of other doctors. In late December, Dr. Li warned fellow physicians through a WeChat posting that one of his patients showed symptoms of a SARS-like virus. He urged them to don protective gear. A few days later, Chinese authorities hauled him in, and after interrogating Li, they forced him to sign a letter acknowledging that he was “spreading rumors” and fomenting public disorder.

A month after his initial warning, Li was diagnosed with coronavirus. He died from the disease on Feb.7. But he had continued to speak out about the danger posed by COVID-19, and to call for more transparency by the government about coronavirus’s effects.

After the public outcry from other world leaders and its own citizens, the Chinese government, in true Orwellian fashion, reversed course in early April. The Chinese Communist Party named Dr. Li a “martyr,” which is the highest honor the party bestows on citizens working to further its interests.

Writing in Newsweek magazine last week, Sen. Rubio declared Li a “hero” for his efforts to publicly challenge the Chinese propaganda about COVID-19.

“We cannot let him be forgotten, nor allow his memory to be appropriated by the CCP,” Rubio wrote. “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. … Because of Dr. Li’s courage, it [the CCP] was forced to change course and acknowledge that an unknown pneumonia was indeed mid-outbreak in Wuhan.”

Continuing, Rubio added, “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.”

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