Gary Locke, the US ambassador famous for buying his own Starbucks coffee while carrying his own backpack, flying cattle class instead of first class and then getting taunted publicly by the smart-alecky CCTV host Rui Chenggang for it, is back in the limelight again.
Li Jiajia, reporter for Guangdong’s Southern Television, who is in Hainan attending the ongoing Bo’ao Forum, found from the ambassador’s aide that he wasn’t staying at the forum’s official hotel because it was *gasp* too expensive for him:
Her tweet, sent yesterday, has been reposted 13,000 times on Sina Weibo:
Gary Locke arrived today at the Bo’ao Forum. I thought he’d join many of the other heads of state at the forum’s official hotel (the 5-star Sofitel Hotel). His aide told me, “No, it’s too expensive. The rates provided by that hotel are three times the rate allowed by the US government for official visits and so the ambassador cannot stay there.” Hence, the ambassador has decided to stay at the Qianzhouwan Holiday Hotel, which is nearby. I asked the aide how long the ambassador will be staying in Bo’ao. “He’s gone tomorrow. If he can get things done in a day, he won’t stay two days.”
In a later tweet, she added:
This really isn’t Gary Locke putting on a show. Yesterday while sitting in at one of the sessions at the Forum, I met one of the Embassy staff that I knew from before and it was only through our small talk that I found that the ambassador wasn’t staying at the Forum’s official hotel. Because this was rather sensitive matter, I only published it on my Weibo after verifying the information myself. This wasn’t a publicity exercise by the US Embassy, it was something that I as a journalist dug out for myself.
Outspoken entertainment personality Song Zude muses:
Is Gary Locke putting on a show? The US Ambassador attended the Bo’ao Forum yesterday and had to stay at a smaller hotel nearby because the Forum’s official hotel was too expensive. Even if this was really a show, the people are sure lapping it up. In China today, our ostentatious officials are too lazy to even put on a show of frugality. Ambassador Locke, your “normal” behaviour is a little too “alternative” in China, and you’re giving our officials a massive headache.
Pan Shiyi, founder and CEO of SOHO China, who is acquainted with Gary Locke, says he sent Li Jiajia’s tweet to the ambassador to ask if he was indeed staying at the Qianzhouwan Hotel, and the answer came back in the affirmative.
The online rate for the hotel’s VIP suite is a mere RMB970.