James R. Lilley, the U.S. ambassador to China, got a bad rap, indeed, in The Post last week. I too read the brief wire story Dec. 2 about the incident. Still, all the evidence needs to be heard before individuals such as G. Arthur Whitmore succeed in distorting the accurate views and reputation of an outstanding public servant {"The Ambassador's Un-American Remark," letters, Dec. 7}.

Mr. Whitmore suggests that Mr. Lilley should be removed from his post and that an ambassador should be 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." Mr. Whitmore is clearly ignorant of both Mr. Lilley's views and excellent accomplishments on behalf of his country.

Before this matter gets out of hand and an indelible record is created, Mr. Whitmore and others need to know that Amb. Lilley, born in China, fluent in Mandarin and thoroughly familiar with China's history of oppressive totalitarianism in the latter half of the 20th century, has been a staunch defender of human rights and a key player in the development of the realistic policies of the Reagan-Bush administration toward mainland China.

In 1980, as a member of the Reagan campaign staff, Mr. Lilley traveled to mainland China with George Bush and myself to help deliver a definitive statement of prospective Reagan administration policy toward China. After the presidential election, Mr. Lilley was the first senior specialist appointed to the National Security Council. In that capacity, he had important responsibilities in the execution of the Reagan policy announced in August of 1980 at the height of the campaign. Subsequently he accepted an invitation to serve as his nation's representative ("unofficial ambassador") in Taipei at the head of the American Institute in Taiwan. No one encountering Mr. Lilley there ever came away with any doubts as to his true views about China. Mr. Lilley then returned to the United States, served as deputy assistant secretary of state and was subsequently named ambassador to the Republic of Korea, where he served with great distinction.

President Bush made a wise choice in selecting Jim Lilley as his personal representative in China, if only because Mr. Lilley is so firmly dedicated to the protection of human rights and the disappearance of totalitarian governments.

It is a crude insult to Mr. Lilley to suggest that he is not a patriot and that he has not fought staunchly for the extension of democracy, republicanism and free speech. Critics should bear in mind that it was Mr. Lilley who took into his own residence for more than a year the famous Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi and his wife, and it was Mr. Lilley who worked out the arrangements to secure permission for them to depart China for England.

I think Mr. Whitmore and other critics ought to investigate both the circumstances of this matter and the outstanding record of Mr. Lilley, and then, might consider extending to Mr. Lilley the same sort of apology the ambassador himself saw fit to make immediately in the wake of the unfortunate Seattle incident. RICHARD V. ALLEN Washington

The writer was senior foreign policy adviser to Ronald Reagan, 1977 to 1980, and assistant to the president for national security affairs, 1981 to 1982.