The 64-year-old became the first ethnic Chinese in the post when he was appointed in 2011, going on to gain quasi-celebrity status for his modest style and for drawing attention to China’s unhealthy skies.
But Locke, who left his role on Saturday, received a highly undiplomatic sendoff from the China News Service in a sneering editorial, which referred to him as a “banana”, and a “guide dog” for helping a blind activist.
“He is a banana with yellow skin and a white heart,” Friday’s article opened by saying, calling Locke’s ethnicity a ploy by the US to win Chinese hearts and minds while seeking to kick up trouble in the region.
“But the ‘yellow skin’ of bananas will eventually rot, not only revealing the ‘white core’ inside but also turning into a putrid ‘black core’,” the commentary went on.
Locke was viewed as a trailblazer in highlighting the PM 2.5 particulate matter carried in the thick blankets of smog pervading China’s capital.