“Snowden Street” and other names people in China want to give the road outside the US embassy

The street she’s walking on could get a vengeful new name.
The street she’s walking on could get a vengeful new name.
Image: Reuters/Jason Lee
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Internet users in China are rallying to retaliate against the United States Congress, which is threatening to rename part of the street in front of the Chinese embassy after the political dissident Liu Xiaobo. The most common Chinese counter-suggestion is to name the street where the US embassy in Beijing is located after the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, but there are many more.

Congress is considering an amendment to an appropriations bill that would place China’s embassy in Washington, D.C., at No. 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza, after the Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning Chinese activist currently in a Chinese prison for “inciting subversion of state power.” Always ready to respond to breaches of national sovereignty and pride, users on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo responded with suggestions they thought would exact equal shame on the United States.

Here is one suggestion from Weibo, translated:

I strongly recommended renaming the street in front of the US embassy in China to “Snowden Street.” If you agree, share this post!

A Weibo user’s widely shared suggestion to rename the street outside the US embassy to “Snowden Street.”
A Weibo user’s widely shared suggestion to rename the street outside the US embassy to “Snowden Street.”

As that screenshot shows, the post was shared by over 500 other users. Snowden is a somewhat apt comparison to Liu—both men are seen as freedom fighters by some and have enraged their own governments—but other suggestions on Weibo reveal the deep-seated antagonism that many in China have toward the US in general. (Links in Chinese and translations of the users’ suggestions below.)

Osama bin Laden Road:

A country as powerful as America is resorting to such gimmicks? By this measure, what should the road here be called? Should we change the name outside the US embassy to No. 911 Osama bin Laden Road?

Ulterior Motive Road:

Rename the road near the US embassy to “Ulterior Motive Road”; the one to the left to “Fanning the Flame Road”; to the right would be “Distorting the Truth Road”; in front “Two-faced Road”; and behind “Throw Your Weight Around First Street.”

This person is just angry about a lot of things:

Change the name of the street outside the US embassy to: Ho Chi Minh Alley, Saddam Chemical Weapons Street, Lewinsky’s Miniskirt Road, Arab Monarchy Avenue, Agent Orange in North Vietnam Lane.

Phoenix News, a television and online news provider, conducted a poll (link in Chinese) of 100,000 Chinese internet users to see the broader level of support for a retaliatory name change. They focused on “Snowden Street.”


So most responders are advocates of “Snowden Street.” While those questions are highly suggestive, the fact is that fewer than one in five of those surveyed said that China should take the high road and not respond. Beijing has called the US move a “farce” and “absurd,” but there is no indication that an actual reciprocal renaming will actually happen anytime soon.

The indignation this has stirred up in China also reveals how little respect many in China have for dissidents. One commenter on Weibo stressed that Liu is a convicted criminal, and ignored his role as a political activist and cultural critic.

Still, Congress has gotten people in China to once again openly discuss Liu Xiaobo, even if it’s to dismiss him. The commenter mentioned above, who criticized Liu as a criminal, nevertheless had to type his name as “LiuXBo” to get around government censors.

And some seem to be taking Liu’s democratic message seriously. This user suggests a namesake that is perhaps apt: a civil rights activist whose imprisonment didn’t deter his ambitious project for greater freedom.

The best way for us to strike back against America is to name the street in front of their embassy “Martin Luther King Avenue.”