Mike Pence, the U.S Vice President accused China of curtailing “rights and liberties” in Hong Kong and also accused Nike and the National Basketball Association for falling in line with Beijing in a disagreement over free speech.
“Hong Kong is a living example of what can happen when China embraces liberty,” he said. “And yet, for the last few years, Beijing has increased its interventions in Hong Kong and engaged in actions that curtail the rights and liberties that Hong Kong’s people were guaranteed through a binding international agreement.”
“We stand with you, we are inspired by you. We urge you to stay on the path of non-violent protest,” Pence said in his address at a Washington think tank.
He also criticized China for its treatment of Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.
U.S. authorities this month also included Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision on a trade blacklist for its alleged role in the Uighur crackdown.
Pence turned to Nike and the NBA, which he accused of siding with China’s Communist Party over freedom of speech in Hong Kong.
He added that the NBA and Nike had failed to defend basketball team Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey.
“Some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of other peoples,” he said.
By “siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime,” Pence added.
“Nike promotes itself as a so-called social-justice champion, but when it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the door,” Pence noted.
The U.S launched a trade war with China over a year ago, alleging unfair trading practices such as theft of U.S. intellectual property and generous industrial subsidies at the expense of foreign competitors.
Trump attended a summit in Chile where he has said he hopes to close a “phase one” trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Pence also said that the United States is “not seeking to contain China’s development.” “We want a constructive relationship with China’s leaders,” and called on Beijing to “seize this unique moment in history to start anew by ending the trade practices that have taken advantage of the American people for far too long.”