WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday it was "completely inappropriate" for China to retaliate against U.S. businesses for commenting on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, CNBC reported.
A controversy erupted this month when Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team, tweeted support for the pro-democracy demonstrators in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, including an image captioned, "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong." The post was subsequently deleted.
In the aftermath of the tweet, China did not broadcast or stream two pre-season games held in the country between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, while the NBA canceled many player appearances.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on Thursday the fallout had cost the league substantial financial losses in China.
CNBC said Pompeo told the network in an interview on Monday that "from a foreign policy perspective, we think it's completely inappropriate for China to attack U.S. businesses whose employees or customers exercise their fundamental freedoms here in the United States."
According to CNBC, he added: "We just think that makes no sense. And we'd encourage every company to make - take a good, close look ensuring that the kinds of things, the reciprocity that President Trump has been demanding from China, actually takes place."
NBA superstar LeBron James sparked anger on social media last week after suggesting that Morey "wasn't educated" when he sent the tweet supporting the protesters.
CNBC said Pompeo was asked if U.S. firms should be criticized for making profits in China given censorship there and replied: "Look, every company's gotta make its own set of decisions."
"But what we've seen over the last few weeks publicly, but we've known now for an awfully long time, is that the long arm of Beijing is reaching out into these companies, stealing their intellectual property, forcing technology transfer, making it very difficult to, in fact, make a profit in China for many, many companies," Pompeo said.
The row comes at a time of sensitive negotiations between the Trump administration and China to try to end a damaging trade war between the world's two largest economies. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by David Gregorio)