Over the weekend, Chinese dissidents held pro-democracy protests in 13 cities across the Middle Kingdom. Dubbed the "Jasmine Revolution," the "small but stubborn" movement draws its inspiration from recent events in Tunisia and Egypt. But this weekend, an unlikely face got wrapped up in the revolutionary fervor: US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. In a fast-circulating video, the rumored GOP presidential candidate is seen walking among the demonstrators:
In the 1:30" clip, a Chinese man in the crowd calls out to him, "Hey Mr Ambassador, what are you doing here?"
Huntsman responds, "I'm just here to look around."
The Chinese man asks, "You want to see China in chaos, don't you?"
"No, I don't," came the reply.
The Chinese man then turns around to everyone in the crowd and starts telling them that he is the US Ambassador, at which point Huntsman realises, uh oh, I'd better get myself out of here. Huntsman is then seen shuffling away, with his entourage in tow.
Pushing against rumors that Huntsman was supporting the protesters, US embassy officials told the AFP his presence was "purely coincidental."
"Let me stress again that he was with his family. They were on a family outing and their presence there was coincidental," the official said.
Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped nationalist Chinese bloggers from using Huntsman's appearance to drum-up conspiracies of a U.S. plot to destabilize China. Here's a passage from a widely-distributed article published on the news site M4.CN (English translation):
It was not a coincidence that the U.S. ambassador was spotted at the venue during the same hour that the protests were supposedly planned to hold. He was there to applaud the protesters, take down notes of how the riot police will react, then return to his office and make a report on human rights violations in China, and then fax an urgent message to the White House on the need to covertly encourage the protesters to march on, chant slogans and call for regime change and other social benefits like was the case in Tunisia, Egypt, and now, Libya and Bahrain.
Yikes! Good luck clearing that one up, Jon.