Vice President Mike Pence took a swipe at Nike and the NBA in a speech Thursday criticizing China’s record on trade and human rights.
Pence singled out the shoe company for removing Houston Rockets merchandise from stores in China after the team’s general manager angered the Chinese government with a tweet supporting protesters in Hong Kong.
He said the NBA was acting like a “wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime” for failing to stand up to the government’s criticism of 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,” the vice president said.
Pence spoke at the Wilson Center in Washington to outline the Trump administration’s China policy amid talks on a new trade deal between China and the U.S. He criticized previous administrations for tolerating human rights abuses and unfair trade practices.
“The political establishment was not only silent in the face of China’s economic aggression and human rights abuses, but enabled them,” he said.
He also sounded an alarm about China’s influence campaigns and its crackdown on free speech and other rights in Hong Kong.
The U.S. is not seeking a confrontation with China but “a level playing field, open markets, fair trade and a respect for our values,” Pence said.