BEIJING — The U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, whose term was marked by a dramatic diplomatic row over the fate of a human-rights activist, said Wednesday he will step down from his role early next year for personal reasons.
Locke is the first American of Chinese descent to head the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. His 2 1/2 years as ambassador were highlighted by a tussle over blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who escaped from house arrest to seek refuge in the embassy and secured a visa to study in the United States last year.
"When I met with President Obama earlier this month, I informed him of my decision to step down as ambassador in early 2014 to rejoin my family in Seattle," Locke said in a statement released by the embassy.
"Our efforts have focused on job creation in America by increasing exports to China, opening more markets for American companies and promoting Chinese investment in the U.S.," he said.
"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," the former Washington governor said.