China says US ordered it to close Houston consulate after document burning incident
BEIJING — The U.S. has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston in what a Chinese official called an outrageous and unjustified move that will sabotage relations between the two countries.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin condemned the action, which comes at a time of rising tensions between the world’s two largest economies. He warned of firm countermeasures if the U.S. does not reverse its decision.
“The unilateral closure of China’s consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China,” Wang said at a daily news briefing.
Besides its embassy in Beijing, the U.S. has five consulates in mainland China, according to its website. They are in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Shenyang.
The U.S. said in a brief statement that the consulate was ordered closed “to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information.” It did not provide any details.
“The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior,” the statement from State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
Media reports in Houston said that authorities had responded to reports of a fire at the consulate. Witnesses said that people were burning documents in what appeared to be trash cans, the Houston Chronicle reported, citing police.
Police were told that occupants were given until 4 p.m. Friday to leave the property, the Chronicle said.
Houston police said in a tweet that officers responded to “a meet the firefighter” call at the Chinese Consulate building at 3417 Montrose Blvd. The tweet said that smoke was observed in an outdoor courtyard area, and that officers were not allowed to enter the building.
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