US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denounced China for the arrest of Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai, whom he called a “patriot,” and said the move indicated that Beijing would likely not change its stance on the financial center.
Lai’s arrest under a sweeping new security law comes amid Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy opposition in the city, and further fuels concerns about the media and other freedoms promised during his returned to China in 1997.
China imposed the law on Hong Kong on June 30, drawing condemnation from Western countries.
“Lai was nothing more than a patriot who wanted good things for the people of Hong Kong,” Pompeo told the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“I am not optimistic given what we have seen this morning… that they will change what they are doing,” he added, referring to the Chinese government.
Besides Lai, two of her supporters were also arrested, as well as an independent television producer and member of the pro-democracy movement, Agnes Chow. Lai’s media company, including his newspaper, Apple Daily, was also attacked.
Tensions between the world’s two largest economies are increasing every day.
Later Monday, Pompeo took a look at China’s-owned video-sharing app TikTok, repeating that it poses a threat to Americans’ national security due to what it said is the obligation of all these companies to the Chinese Communist Party.
“The United States is aware that these companies are being used for Chinese national security purposes,” Pompeo said in an interview on Newsmax, without offering concrete evidence of such use.
President Donald Trump has unveiled sweeping bans on U.S. transactions with Chinese owners of TikTok and the WeChat messaging app.
Pompeo said the United States would take steps to ensure Hong Kong is treated as an extension of China after Beijing passed its national security legislation in June, prompting Washington to end the special status of the territory.
He said he feared Hong Kong may have had its last Democratic election, in an apparent reference to the 2019 lower-level district council elections.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam postponed the Sept. 6 elections for the city’s legislature seats last month for a year due to a spike in new coronavirus cases. The United States said it was the latest example of Beijing undermining democracy in the territory.
Since then, Lam and several Hong Kong officials have been targeted by US sanctions. In response, China imposed sanctions on US officials, including two senators: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.