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In The Loop
Posted at 02:46 PM ET, 05/24/2012

Gary Locke: the people’s ambassador?


Blind activist Chen Guangcheng, center, holds hands with U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, at a hospital in Beijing. (Associated Press)
The Beijing Daily, the propaganda organ of the city’s communist party bosses, has oft-criticized U.S. ambassador Gary Locke for doing things like flying in economy class, carrying his own backpack, buying coffee with a discount coupon and being frugal in general.

The criticism grew as the case of blind human rights activist — and now New York University student — Chen Guangcheng heated up.

The paper has said that Locke’s acting like a “common man” was just a show. Worse, the University of Hong Kong’s media project reported last week, that the paper said Locke’s actions “create conflict” in that supposedly classless country, where government officials somehow manage to amass enormous wealth.

But when the Beijing Daily tweeted that Locke should reveal his personal assets, the suggestion backfired.

In response, the embassy released the foreign service pay schedule for ambassadors, noting this is a public document. Locke’s salary is about $170,000 a year. (Also government travel regulations require him to book coach.)

The blogosphere erupted, with Chinese Internet users taunting the Beijing Daily, saying it should demand that party officials and Chinese government leaders disclose their finances.

To be helpful, the embassy also re-tweeted a popular blogger’s suggestion that the Chinese public go to a Web site run by the Center for Responsive Politics at opensecrets.org, which lists Locke’s declared assets. (Turns out he lists pretty hefty assets of between $1.6 million and $7.9 million.)

“Chinese blogs linking to our site sent our traffic through the roof,” says CRP’s communications director Viveca Novak, and “triggered what we believe was our second heaviest traffic day ever.”

Beijing Daily’s official blog, as would be expected, has since deleted any related topics and comments on the matter.

And as of Thursday, The Washington Post’s researcher in Beijing, Liu Liu, reports that “Sina Weibo,” China’s version of Twitter, apparently has blocked all searches for the terms “gary locke” and “assets” and “disclosure.”

So Beijing Daily’s not going to ask party and government kleptocrats to disclose their assets?

By  |  02:46 PM ET, 05/24/2012

Tags:  Chen Guangcheng, blind activist, Beijing, human rights, Gary Locke, ambassador to beijing, Beijing Daily, Sina Weibo, Center for Responsive Politics, Al Kamen, Emily Heil, In the Loop

 
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