WASHINGTON — Republican White House hopeful Jon Huntsman's official Facebook page on Monday seemed to play down his time as US envoy to China even as it highlighted a decade-old meeting with the Dalai Lama.
Huntsman's page showcased just two photographs from his 20-month tenure as President Barack Obama's ambassador to Beijing, one of him riding his bicycle and another on a tandem bike with adoptive daughter Gracie Mei.
But the site included a photograph of him during his time as Utah governor meeting with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, one of scores of pictures of Huntsman's youth, his family, and career in public service uploaded ahead of his formal campaign announcement on Tuesday.
An aide to the International Campaign for Tibet said the picture appeared to be from a 2001 trip the Buddhist leader took to Utah. An aide to Huntsman said it dated back to the candidate's time as the state's chief executive.
Huntsman was known during his time in Beijing for preferring his bicycle to chauffeur-driven armored vehicles.
The campaign Facebook page included 14 pictures in an album entitled "On Two Wheels" that celebrates the charismatic politician's unorthodox fondness for motocross riding -- a staple of his television advertisements thus far.
Huntsman's campaign has mostly shrugged off concerns that core Republican voters will reject him because of his generally well-regarded service as Obama's envoy to China, saying he relished the chance to serve his country and help shape arguably its most important diplomatic relationship.
Huntsman, whom Beijing summoned in February 2010 to angrily protest a White House meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama, did not shy away from criticizing the Chinese government on human rights during his time in China.
In his April farewell speech, Huntsman cautioned that "the United States will never stop supporting human rights because we believe in the fundamental struggle for human dignity and justice wherever it may occur."
"We do so not because we oppose China but, on the contrary, because we value our relationship," he said. "By speaking out candidly, we hope eventually to narrow and bridge this critical gap and move our relationship forward."
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