Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman says Beijing cancelled a visa for him to visit the country last month to give a speech because of his record of bringing up human rights.
In a Wednesday interview with Foreign Policy
, Huntsman said China's sensitive leadership transition that begins next month is likely the reason China's Communist leaders barred his visit. There has been no official Chinese comment.
Huntsman, who served as ambassador from 2009 until 2011, said Chinese leaders know that he "talks too much about human rights and American values." He said they "didn't want the former ambassador saying stuff that might create a narrative that they would have to fight."
The Mandarin-speaking Huntsman, who resigned as ambassador in April 2011 to unsuccessfully attempt a run at the Republican nomination for president, was at times an unusually outspoken critic of China's human rights record.
Huntsman says he understands why China did not let him into the country to give a speech, saying when the transition is over "the crazy American ambassador will be let back in, and I can say whatever I want." He said China has since approved his travel visas for other non-speech related visits.
Now a fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, Huntsman told Foreign Policy that he was an "imperfect messenger" during his failed bid for the Republican nomination. He said it was difficult to transition from what he said was the "sensitive, confined" position of U.S. ambassador to the "most public stage in the world."
During the campaign, Huntsman was critical of his fellow Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney, for their tough talk on Chinese trade practices, saying it could spark a trade war between the world's two largest economies.