Following the arrest Monday of media mogul and Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed China for the move and expressed doubt that the country would change its stance on Hong Kong independence anytime soon.

“I’m not optimistic given what we saw this morning ... that they’re going to change what they’re doing,” Pompeo said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “But what we can be sure, and President Trump has said, is that to the extent the Chinese Communist Party treats Hong Kong as just another communist-run city, the United States will do the same.”

Pompeo further described Lai as a “patriot” who fought for the freedom and rights of the people of Hong Kong. Lai was the most recent and highest-profile arrest made by China after the passage of a widely criticized security law and its latest attempt to crack down on pro-democracy activism in the territory.

Pompeo also expressed concern that Hong Kong’s most recent democratic elections — younger, pro-democracy voices overwhelmingly won — may be the region's last.

Recent elections for seats on the Hong Kong city legislature were delayed from Sept. 6 due to concerns related to COVID-19, a move which many viewed as a move by China to attack the democratic process in the territory.

Lai, 71, had made frequent visits to the U.S. and met with government officials – including Pompeo – to drum up support for Hong Kong. This led to him being deemed a “traitor” by the Chinese government, leading to this most recent arrest. According to police, his charges included “collusion with a foreign country/external elements to endanger national security, [and] conspiracy to defraud.”

Media mogul Jimmy Lai is one of Hong Kong's most vocal critics of the Chinese government
Media mogul Jimmy Lai is one of Hong Kong's most vocal critics of the Chinese government AFP / Anthony WALLACE