U.S. Ambassador to China James R. Lilley should be removed from his post, because any U.S. ambassadorship should be held only by a patriot who understands the principles of American democracy, republicanism and free speech, not to mention the history of the country where he represents U.S. interests. In my opinion, Mr. Lilley possesses no such understanding. If he did, he never would have behaved in such an un-American fashion Dec. 2 in Seattle by making insulting remarks to U.S. citizens protesting human rights abuses by the Chinese government.

According to a wire report Dec. 3 in The Post, Mr. Lilley called a group of U.S. citizens "cowards" for protesting China's repression of its pro-democracy citizens and of the nation of Tibet. Mr. Lilley even told a Tibetan man to "go back to China and serve China," claiming he himself was "doing something about it." I can only suppose Mr. Lilley meant serving his ambassadorship when he claimed he was "doing something about it." From Mr. Lilley's no doubt very comfortable and safe position as ambassador, it must be easy for him to make accusations of cowardice on the part of others, but I would assert that Mr. Lilley would be hard put to "do more about it" than those who have already died and those who still stand ready in China and Tibet to give their lives in the name of freedom, as well as those citizens in our own country who choose to exercise two of the founding freedoms of American democracy -- free speech and right of petition -- in making known their opposition to the Chinese Communist dictatorship.

I remember how proud I was of my country when last year American principles (and even its iconography in the form of the Statue of Liberty) were proclaimed as an ideal by the Chinese in Tiananmen Square (as well as by protestors for democracy in Poland, East Germany and elsewhere in Eastern Europe). It occurred to me then that many Americans do not fully appreciate the freedoms they enjoy. I am sorry to see that Mr. Lilley is one of them.

I understand and acknowledge the necessity of compromise and even accommodation in negotiating relations with foreign governments in our own national interest. But I also urge President Bush, Secretary of State James Baker and Amb. Lilley to place more importance on the ideals of individual freedom, equality and the other principles of American democracy than on mere pragmatism and its self-serving sleights-of-hand in international diplomacy.