Gary Locke, the American ambassador to China, announced on 20 November 2013 that he will leave Beijing early next year to return to the U.S. He told the press that he informed U.S president Obama earlier in November but in his public statement, he did not explain his early resignation.
As the first Chinese-American, Gary Locke was welcomed by many Chinese for his humble lifestyle when he took up his post in August 2011. At the same time, he has been highly controversial because he has been very keen to connect with Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists. In fact, his involvement in the escape of Chinese prominent human right activist, Chen Guangcheng in 2012, fomented angry reactions from the Chinese authorities. Yet he continues to meet with dissidents, as stressed in his statement on his accomplishments regarding U.S-China relations:
And we have advanced American values by meeting with religious leaders and human rights lawyers, and visiting Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang.
In addition, the embassy public monitoring of air-quality in Beijing via Twitter has also been considered an insult to the Chinese authorities.
In Sina Weibo, many netizens are still praising Locke for his humble lifestyle.
Pan Shiyi, the head of Soho China wrote of Gary Locke's contribution in his Weibo:
Gary Locke has overcome a lot of difficulties in Beijing. He hires Chinese people to handle visas and speeds up the visa processing time. He insists on announcing to the public the PM2.5 index and the Chinese authorities have to pay attention to the situation.
Liu Guojie, a professor of journalism noticed the shift of media opinion on Gary Locke in the past two years:
When Gary Lock first came to China, the Chinese media were very keen in reporting about him. Later, we could not see any news about him. I wonder if his behavior is too overwhelming for Chinese people and becomes a threat to the ruling elites. That's why there is no more reporting?
Simon Zhou, an editor from a Hong Kong based newspaper, elaborated on Gary Locke's forceful behavior:
[Farewell, Gary Locke] Ordinary Chinese people suddenly realized: That's how American officials behave, the Chinese officials are wrong. The Chinese officials suddenly realized: Officials should serve the public, restrict one's power, resist corruption and privileges. The Officials should be the public servants. Gary Locke's behavior has become the strongest pressure for Chinese officials.
“My heart has something to say” described Gary Locke's virtue with dark humor:
[Farewell, Gary Locke] Gary Locke, you have done wrong: You should not have carried your own backpack. You should not have flown economic class. You should not take public transportation. You should not send your kids to ordinary schools. You should not monitor the PM2.5 and announce it publicly. You should not have accompanied a crippled person to the hospital [referring to Chen Guangcheng's escape]. You should not mix with ordinary people…. What you have done is lower than the head of a county in China.
In Twitter, many are speculating about the reason behind Gary Locke's resignation. @wenyunchao, a mainland Chinese dissident based in the U.S writes satirical news:
— 北风（温云超, Yunchao Wen） (@wenyunchao) November 20, 2013
Reuuuters: The American Ambassador to China Gary Locke resigned because of Beijing's poor air quality and Obama cannot turn down his request based on this reason.
@yueyexiake's parody is more extensive:
— 月夜侠客 (@yueyexiake) November 20, 2013
Three reasons for Gary Locke's resignation: The smog is too serious, he will have lung cancer if he stays longer. He can't bare the psychological stress anymore: a village official's golf skill is better than his. The U.S dollar's value will increase, better exchange the RMB back to USD and leave.