"Today China is increasingly authoritarian at home, and more aggressive in its hostility to freedom everywhere else," Pompeo said in a California speech.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2nd L) meets with Chinese dissidents at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, July 23, 2020, in Yorba Linda, California.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2nd L) meets with Chinese dissidents at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, July 23, 2020, in Yorba Linda, California. (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called on "free nations" to triumph over the threat of what he said was a "new tyranny" from China.

"Today China is increasingly authoritarian at home, and more aggressive in its hostility to freedom everywhere else," Pompeo said in a California speech that laid a stark view of Washington's rivalry with Beijing.

"If the free world doesn't change Communist China, Communist China will change us," he said at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California on Thursday.

In strident language that recalled the US Cold War with the Soviet Union, Pompeo said Beijing had taken selfish advantage of US and Western generosity as it implemented reforms and joined the global economy in the past four decades.

He strongly criticised previous US administrations for being too complacent with China and US companies for being too compliant with whatever Beijing demands of them.

And he said Beijing had broken international commitments on Hong Kong's autonomy, on the South China Sea and on stopping state-backed intellectual property threats.

"There can be no return to past practices just because they're comfortable, or convenient," he said.

"We can no longer ignore the fundamental political and ideological differences between our countries, just as the CCP has never ignored them," he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

'Hub of spying'

The US Justice Department on Thursday announced indictments and arrests of four scientists and medical researchers at US universities.

The four were accused of visa fraud for allegedly lying about their ties to the People's Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party.

The State Department had earlier ordered China to shut its Houston, Texas consulate.

Pompeo said the consulate was closed because it "was a hub of spying and IP theft."

"China ripped off our prized intellectual property and trade secrets, costing millions of jobs across America."

On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called the consulate action an "outrageous and unjustified move which will sabotage China-US relations."

And on Thursday, he said the charges against the four researchers amounted to "naked political persecution."

"China will take necessary measures to safeguard Chinese citizens' safety and legitimate rights," Wang said.

The Justice Department also said that the FBI has interviewed visa holders it believes to secretly be members of the Chinese military in more than two dozen US cities.

“In interviews with members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in over 25 cities across the US, the FBI uncovered a concerted effort to hide their true affiliation to take advantage of the United States and the American people,” John Brown, executive assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's national security branch, said in a statement.

Court filings show that the FBI believed the San Francisco consulate was harbouring a fugitive since late June. US law enforcement cannot enter a foreign embassy or consulate unless invited, and certain top officials such as ambassadors have diplomatic immunity. 

READ MORE: FBI believes Chinese researcher evading arrest in San Francisco consulate

Source: TRTWorld and agencies