U.S. Shuts Down Chinese Consulate in Houston Over Spying, Hacking Concerns
Video shows ‘classified documents’ being burned in building's courtyard
The U.S. Government has reportedly forced the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, over concerns the building was operating as a secret "spy center" that was hacking Americans' private information.
On Tuesday evening, officials at the Chinese General Consulate reportedly rushed to burn classified documents.
The move came as China learned the United States was planning to order them to “cease all operations and events” at the consulate over security concerns.
“We have directed the closure of PRC Consulate General Houston, in order to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus accused China of "violations of our sovereignty."
"The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s (People Republic of China) 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," Ortagus said.
"President Trump insists on fairness and reciprocity in US-China relations,” the statement added.
China slammed the move by the United States as an “unprecedented escalation.”
The Communist Party of China (CPC) threatened to “make a legitimate and necessary response” if the U.S. did not “immediately retract this wrong decision.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin promised to “react with firm countermeasures” if the move is not rescinded, according to Breitbart.
The ministry called the closure a “political provocation unilaterally launched by the U.S. side, which seriously violates international law, basic norms governing international relations and the bilateral consular agreement between China and the U.S.”
It also accused the Trump administration of stigmatizing and “unwarranted attacks” against China’s social system, “harassing” Chinese diplomatic and consular staff, “intimidating and interrogating” Chinese students, and “confiscating their personal electrical devices, even detaining them without cause.”
The move escalates tensions already somewhat strained by blame over the COVID-19 pandemic, trade disputes, and Beijing’s military actions in the South China Sea.
A Chinese academic reportedly told the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper that possible countermeasures may include shutting down the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong.
“China strongly condemns such an outrageous and unjustified move which will sabotage China-U.S. relations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement posted to social media.
“We urge the U.S. to immediately withdraw its erroneous decision, otherwise China will make legitimate and necessary reactions.”
Tuesday night, authorities in Houston responded to a fire at the consulate, where witnesses saw papers being burned outside the facility.
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.— KPRC2Tulsi (@KPRC2Tulsi) July 22, 2020
DETAILS SO FAR: https://t.co/2cOeKoap96 pic.twitter.com/0myxe6HIlC
A video captured by our crew outside the Consulate General of China in Houston shows people hosing down what appear to be flaming open containers in the courtyard of the property.— KPRC2Tulsi (@KPRC2Tulsi) July 22, 2020
DETAILS: https://t.co/2cOeKoap96 pic.twitter.com/ToQitHjy2T
The closure came ahead of a Senate foreign relations committee hearing on Wednesday that will examine U.S.-China relations.
The hearing will include testimony from Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun.
#China’s Houston consulate is a massive spy center, forcing it to close is long overdue.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 22, 2020
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) lauded the closure, tweeting: “#China’s Houston consulate is a massive spy center, forcing it to close is long overdue.”