The Fiji Times
US-China relations slide
Beijing orders consulate closure in tit-for-tat move
BEIJING/HOUSTON China ordered the United States on Friday to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu, responding to a US demand for China to close its Houston consulate, as relations between the world’s two largest economies deteriorate.
The order to close the Chengdu consulate in southwestern China’s Sichuan province continued Beijing’s recent practice of like-for-like responses to Washington’s actions.
Beijing had threatened retaliation after the
Trump administration this week gave it 72 hours — until Friday — to vacate its consulate in the Texas city, and had urged the United States to reconsider.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday the consulate had been “a hub of spying and intellectual property theft.”
Senior US officials said on Friday espionage activity by China’s diplomatic missions was occurring all over the United States, but its Houston consulate was one of the worst offenders and its activity went well over the line of what was acceptable.
A senior State Department official also linked espionage activity at China’s Houston consulate to China’s pursuit of research into a vaccine for the new coronavirus.
At the Houston consulate on Friday, about 100 Chinese activists gathered, shouting slogans denouncing China’s ruling Communist Party. Some held American flags.
Relations between Washington and Beijing have deteriorated sharply this year over issues ranging from trade and technology to the coronavirus pandemic, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China informed the US Embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the US Consulate General in Chengdu,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.