On July 24th, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered the United States to close their consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
This took place in retaliation to an order by the US President Donald Trump administration to shut down the Chinese mission in Houston, Texas.
— Bloomberg (@business) July 24, 2020
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the consulate’s closure was a “legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the U.S.”
The US consulate in Chengdu is known as a “key listening post” for developments in Tibet. The move will probably have a bigger impact than shutting the U.S. consulate in Wuhan, but less than closing U.S. missions in the key financial centers of Hong Kong or Shanghai.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing in Beijing that some consulate staff had “engaged in activities inconsistent with their capacity, interfered in China’s internal affairs and harmed China’s national security interests.”
By the afternoon of July 24th, dozens of police, plainclothes officers and People’s Liberation Army personnel were seen patrolling the street outside the building, searching phones and ordering people to delete photos.
“The US demand of the closure of China’s consulate general in Houston is in serious violation of international law, basic norms governing international relations and the bilateral consular agreement between China and the US. It severely damages bilateral relations, a move that undercuts the bond of friendship between Chinese and American people.”
On July 23rd, the US ordered China to “cease all operations and events” at its consulate in Houston, Texas, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in what it called an “unprecedented escalation” in recent actions taken by Washington.
Late on July 21st, police in Houston said they responded to reports of smoke in the courtyard outside the consulate, located on Montrose Boulevard, in the city’s Midtown area.
This video shared with us by a viewer who lives next to the Consulate General of China in #Houston shows fire and activity in the courtyard of the building.
DETAILS SO FAR: https://t.co/2cOeKoap96 pic.twitter.com/0myxe6HIlC
— KPRC2Tulsi (@KPRC2Tulsi) July 22, 2020
The New York Times cited David R. Stilwell, who oversees policy for East Asia and the Pacific at the US State Department.
He noted that China attempted thefts have increased in the past six months and that the “Houston consul general, the top Chinese official there, and two other diplomats were recently caught having used false identification to escort Chinese travelers to the gate area of a charter flight in George Bush Intercontinental Airport. He described the Houston consulate, which he said “has a history of engaging in subversive behavior,” as the “epicenter” of research theft by the Chinese military in the United States.”
Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, a senior member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed with Stilwell’s comment.
“The CCP’s [Communist Party of China] recent targeting of U.S. coronavirus vaccine research underscores the threat of this consulate’s malign activity in Houston, a biomedical research and technology hub itself. I am hopeful this action will deal a significant blow to the CCP’s spy network in the U.S. and send a clear message that their widespread espionage campaigns will no longer go unchecked,” he said in a statement.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is the acting chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted that China’s Houston consulate was a “massive spy center,” and that closing it was “long overdue.”
This is yet another step towards escalation between the US and China.
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- China Stole At Least $1 Billion In Trade Secrets & Research From US: State Dept
- China-US Sanctions War Heats Up Again