Mike Pence. Picture: REUTERS
Mike Pence. Picture: REUTERS

Beijing — Beijing slammed US vice-president Mike Pence for his “arrogance and hypocrisy” on Friday after he voiced support for Hong Kong democracy protesters and accused the National Basketball Association (NBA) of kowtowing to China.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing that the US should “cease expressing irresponsible opinions”.

In a wide-ranging speech on US-China relations on Thursday, Pence also lashed Beijing over its trading behaviour, assertive military posture and treatment of religious minorities.

Pence rebuked the NBA for “siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech” over a tweet by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey earlier this month that voiced support for demonstrations in Hong Kong.

China, a major basketball market, retaliated by ending sponsorships and canceling broadcasts of two pre-season games held in the country. NBA commissioner Adam Silver later said China had asked the NBA to fire Morey, which Beijing has denied.

Hua hit out at the US on Friday for losing “all trace of morality and trustworthiness” and urged Washington to “cease actions that harm the relations and mutual trust between the two countries”.

She accused Pence of “attempting to distract the American public by slandering other countries” and decried the US’s “stubborn withdrawal from international treaties and agreements”.

Pence’s speech was billed as follow-up to an address he gave last year in which he accused China of improperly seeking to influence congressional elections to defeat US President Trump. Pence, who also said the US ultimately wanted a “constructive” relationship with China, made his remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars amid ongoing negotiations over a deal between the trade-war rivals.

“The US does not seek confrontation with China. We seek a level playing field, open markets, fair trade and a respect for our values,” Pence said.

Trump said on Monday that he expected to “sign a completed document with China on phase one” next month.

Hua warned on Friday that “China-US relations are at a crucial stage.”

The protests that have wracked semi-autonomous Hong Kong for months have been met with rare bipartisan support in the US. The US House of Representatives passed a bill on October 15 that would end Hong Kong’s special trading status unless the state department certifies annually that Hong Kong authorities are respecting human rights and the rule of law.