US envoy `coincidentally` at Beijing rally site

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - 23:59

Beijing: US Ambassador Jon Huntsman was
spotted in an area of downtown Beijing where activists had
called for Middle East-style protests at the weekend, but the
embassy said Wednesday his presence was pure coincidence.

Chinese web users have posted photos and a video of
Huntsman standing outside a McDonald`s outlet in the central
Wangfujing shopping district -- one of 13 sites listed in a
web appeal for a homegrown "Jasmine Revolution".

Only a handful of protesters turned out on Sunday amid
a heavy security presence in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and
other cities across China, and the rallies ended without major
incident.

Huntsman and his family "were on their way to
Tiananmen Square and they walked to Wangfujing, and the fact
that that happened and they were there at the time was purely
coincidental," embassy spokesman Richard Buangan said.

"Let me stress again that he was with his family. They
were on a family outing and their presence there was
coincidental."

Following last week`s events, an online campaign has
urged people in 13 Chinese cities to rally every Sunday to
press for government transparency and free expression.

China`s government has indicated growing unease over
the wave of unrest in the Arab world, heavily censoring or
blocking media reports and online discussion of the upheaval,
which has toppled presidents in Tunisia and Egypt.

A few web users criticised the US envoy`s presence at
the scene in Beijing on Sunday, with one saying on www.m4.cn:
"Jon Huntsman, get out of China and back to the US!"

Huntsman, the former Republican governor of Utah and
one-time deputy US trade representative who took up his post
in China in August 2009, has said he will step down as of
April 30.

He stirred speculation about a possible bid for the
Republican presidential nomination in 2012 with a Newsweek
interview late last year in which he suggested he had one
political run left in him.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - 23:59

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