Abby Huntsman Livingston, daughter of the former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, waded into the controversy surrounding the Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng today, lambasting both President Obama and Mitt Romney for how they have handled the sensitive diplomatic issue.
Drawing from her experiences living at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, where Huntsman served as the ambassador to China for a year, Livingston said it was “inconceivable” that the United States would allow Chen to leave the embassy, where he sought refuge after escaping from house arrest.
“I spent a year living there and I can tell you from my experience there is no way Mr. Chen or his family would be safe,” Livingston, who is currently serving as a spokesperson for her father, told MSNBC’s Martin Bashir on Friday, adding that the United States should have taken measures to ensure the safety of both Chen and his family.
Livingston’s criticism stopped short of the attacks presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney launched at Obama over the incident on Thursday.
Romney, whom Jon Huntsman has endorsed, tore into the Obama administration for allegedly urging Chen to leave the embassy.
“If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration,” Romney told a crowd of supporters in Virginia on Thursday morning. “We are a place of freedom here and around the world and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack.”
The current U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, denied the accusation, saying Thursday that Chen “was never pressured to leave.”
Livingston dubbed Romney “very foolish” for wading into diplomatic issues such as this, especially when “he really didn’t have really any facts yesterday about what was going on.”
“What happens in the U.S. embassy in China should be within the hands of the officials on the ground and the State Department,” Livingston said. “It should not be a political issue here in the U.S.”
Abby Huntsman Livingston’s criticism of Romney is reminiscent of her father’s criticism of the former Massachusetts governor four months ago. Then, Huntsman blasted Romney for trying to “start a trade war” by proposing to increase tariffs on goods imported from the Asian nation. Romney, in turn, criticized Huntsman for serving in the Obama administration, “implementing the policy of this administration in China.”
Even after dropping out of the presidential race and endorsing Romney, Huntsman continued to condemn Romney’s policies on China.
In an February interview on MSNBC, Huntsman said the presumptive GOP nominee’s rhetoric toward China “pushes aside the reality, the complexity of the relationship” between America and the Asian nation.
“You sit down at the table with somebody like Xi Jinping, and you say, We’ve got North Korea. We’ve got Iran. We’ve got Pakistan, We’ve got Burma. We’ve got the South China Sea. We have trade and investment, and they all kind of interrelate one with another when you sit down and negotiate a deal,” Huntsman said in the February interview. “That’s just the way the U.S.-China relationship is and has been for 40 years.”