Consulate attack condemned
The Chinese government condemned an arsonist attack on China’s consulate general in San Francisco on New Year’s Day and urged the US to ensure the safety of Chinese missions in the US and find the person responsible promptly.
Local police and the FBI are investigating the case.
At 9:25 pm, a person got out of a minivan parked in front of the consulate building, splashed two buckets of a flammable liquid on the front gate and set it on fire, surveillance video of the consulate showed.
No injuries were reported, but the building was severely damaged.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Thursday in Beijing that China condemned the act and urged the US government to enhance security on Chinese diplomatic missions and personnel. He also asked the US government to make a prompt investigation and bring the person or persons responsible to justice.
Chinese diplomatic missions overseas are rarely attacked. The last time China’s San Francisco consulate was attacked was five years ago when an unidentified person set fire to the visa office.
The Chinese consulate gave its surveillance camera tapes as evidence to the FBI.
“We have initiated emergency security procedures and are in close touch with the San Francisco police,” Wang Chuan, spokesperson for consulate, said on Thursday morning. “No visa application or non-visa services are affected.”
FBI spokesman Peter Lee said the bureau was not investigating the event as an act of terrorism and the fire was caused by a gas-based liquid with accelerants.
Wang said the steel-encased wooden door and glass windows at the main entrance were charred and damaged in the fire and would not be fixed any time soon, as they were being held as evidence.
No confirmed details of the suspect’s nationality or identity have been made available to the media, he said.
Zhu believes the case will have a negative impact on anti-terrorism cooperation between the US and China. “The US released the three Uygurs and transferred them to Slovakia because ‘they do not pose a threat to the US’. This is a very shaky excuse. Uygur radicals do not attack American police or kill American civilians, but they do pose a security threat inside China,” Zhu said.
He said the case reveals the limits in anti-terrorism cooperation, as well as lack of trust between the two countries. “The US immediately condemned bombings in Russia, but has not done so several weeks after suicide bombings in Tiananmen Square,” he said.
“Terrorism may take different forms or result from different situations, but all kinds of violence is inexcusable and must be stopped. As the global leader in the anti-terror campaign, the US should be consistent and condemn all terrorist acts and work with other countries to curb terrorism globally,” Zhu said.
Bonnie Glaser, a senior advisor for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the US and China have some overlapping interests in fighting terrorism, but they also have differences, mostly over whether various groups in Xinjiang should be considered terrorists.
“This is a long standing difference, it is not new. It is unlikely to undermine cooperation where shared interests exist,” she said.
Glaser believes that since this is the last of the Uygur detainees, the issue will no longer be a thorn in the side of the relationship going forward.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Thursday that the US has long maintained its position that it will not repatriate Uygurs to China from Guantanamo due to the US humane treatment policies, implying that some of them might be abused once back in China.
“As we always said, we take positive steps to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo Bay. And it is certainly our position that these Uygurs’ transfer marks an important step in furthering that objective,” Harf told the daily briefing.
Harf said that the US remains deeply concerned about discrimination and restrictions placed on Uygurs and other Muslims in China. “We raised that issue with the Chinese. We certainly don’t want this to impact our broad relationship,” she said.
Harf said that broadly speaking, there is never any justification for violence against civilians, but she added that in these specific cases, the US takes a look at the facts and makes its own determinations.
In a briefing early this week, Harf did not condemn recent violence in Xinjiang and instead called on the Chinese security forces to exercise restraint.
“It is irrational for the US to call for Chinese security forces to exercise restraint, given that it has never exercised restraint itself when dealing with terrorists,” said Li of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
The US has detained 22 Uygurs at Guantanamo since 2002. Most were captured near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in late 2001, and were believed to have trained with the Taliban. Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Wang Chuan, spokesman of the Chinese consulate general in San Francisco, introduces the damages done by an arsonist attack on the consulate which happened on Wednesday evening.