US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took aim at China on multiple fronts on Wednesday, including Beijing’s treatment of protesters in Hong Kong, the use of Huawei telecoms equipment by American diplomatic facilities and China’s culpability in the spread of the coronavirus. The Trump administration will insist that all US embassies communicate on computer networks free of Huawei equipment, and it plans to investigate China’s role in the loss of “tens of thousands of American lives and enormous amounts of wealth” once the pandemic ebbs, Pompeo said at a press conference. He said Washington was also concerned about reports of a recent wave of arrests by Hong Kong authorities of pro-democracy activists. Earlier this month, police rounded up at least 15 opposition activists, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and prominent barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming. Pompeo said recent actions threatened promises made by the Chinese Communist Party under the “one country, two systems” agreement. “Any effort to impose draconian national security legislation on Hong Kong would be inconsistent with Beijing's promises and would impact American interests there,” he said. The comments follow the release on Tuesday of a letter by a bipartisan group by US lawmakers urging Pompeo to factor in the recent arrests in the State Department’s annual US assessment of Hong Kong autonomy. The review’s outcome is hugely significant for Hong Kong’s already battered economy: determining the special administrative region’s “autonomy” is a precondition for continued US preferential trade and investment terms distinct from those applied to China. Pompeo also said that all mobile data entering American diplomatic facilities through 5G networks that use Huawei equipment will be blocked under new, tougher “clean path” rules. The move falls under provisions outlined in the 2019 National Defence Authorisation Act laying out the country’s security priorities. “Just as the Trump administration has taken unprecedented action to defend our physical borders, so too are we defending America on cyber frontiers,” he said. “The objective is that untrusted IT vendors will have no access to US State Department systems. We’ll follow the letter of the law,” Pompeo said. “We will keep doing all we can to keep our critical data in our network safe from the Chinese Communist Party.” Pompeo, formerly a US representative from Kansas and director of the CIA, also called on Beijing to live up to its commitments under phase one of the trade deal signed in December, urged it to work toward a “fair and reciprocal” phase two agreement and warned that a review of global supply chains reducing dependence on China was under way. He used the opportunity to fan the administration’s recent war of words with China over the coronavirus’ origin. In recent weeks, administration officials have suggested that the virus might have leaked from a virology lab in China, while Chinese diplomats suggested that it wasp possibly released by the US Army at the Military World Games in Wuhan in October. Disinformation creates risk, and part of the State Department’s mission of protecting American lives from threats includes knowing how the virus spread from Wuhan, Pompeo said, adding: “It’s just data.” US seeks access to virology lab in Wuhan “The Chinese Communist Party tells us they want to be our partner, they want to be transparent,” he said. “We need partners we can rely on. That when they tell us something, it is accurate and then we don't think they're hiding anything.” Pompeo said scientists from the US and around the world still haven’t gained access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other laboratories studying contagious pathogens in China. “This isn't the first time that we've had a virus come out of China,” he said. “And so there is a continuing obligation on the part of reliable partners to share this information with the world.” The administration has been criticised for its loose approach to facts and science-based decision making, and Pompeo didn’t address why it abruptly cut funding for a Chinese project studying how coronaviruses spread from bats to people, according to Politico . Reports linked the research to a lab in Wuhan at the centre of conspiracy theories about the pandemic’s origins, and scientists warn that a US pull-out undercuts efforts to create a vaccine and prevent future outbreaks. Hong Kong faces threat of worst recession ever, finance chief warns Analysts point out that many of the shortcomings that the Trump administration has accused China of – including efforts to shift blame and weeks wasted as top leaders failed to respond – can also be levelled against the US. James Green, a fellow at Georgetown University and former US trade official posted to Beijing, said the administration was trying to deflect attention from its own record as President Donald Trump’s ratings fall in an election year. “Unfortunately, the politics of blame are overtaking the possibility of collaboration on health and research,” he said. While many nations were slow to wake up and address risks posed by the virus, affecting their own citizens, however, China has come under growing scrutiny over its early missteps given their global cost. Characteristically, China has pushed back at calls for greater transparency, including its criticism of Australia’s call for an independent international inquiry into the pandemic, which Beijing described as “political manoeuvering”. Australia wants probe into coronavirus origins, prompting backlash from China “I saw comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry talking about a course of activity with respect to Australia, who had the temerity to ask for an investigation,” Pompeo said sarcastically. “Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?” He also turned to the World Health Organisation, amplifying Trump’s campaign in recent weeks to shed blame on the UN agency for what he said was an overly cosy relationship with Beijing that hid the full extent of the virus in January and February. Said Pompeo: “We shouldn’t pretend that because some organisation has health in its title that it’s actually capable of delivering the outcomes that we need.” Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.