On Wednesday, the Trump administration told China to close its consulate in the city of Houston.
According to the Chinese foreign ministry, the consulate has been given three days to close its mission in the Texas city, as cited by Reuters.
The move comes after the US Justice Department indicted two Chinese nationals for allegedly hacking defense contractors, COVID-19 researchers and others, according to a court filing published on Tuesday. China denied the allegations on Wednesday.
The Chinese foreign ministry has strongly condemned the move by the US, with state-run newspaper Global Times referring to the abrupt action as a “reckless and dangerous move which analysts said will further flare up ongoing tensions between the two largest economies in the world.”
Image via Global Times
The consulate general in Houston is the first Chinese consulate general established in the US. It covers a consular jurisdiction of eight US states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida as well as Puerto Rico. There are four other Chinese consulates in the US in the following cities: New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Following Trump’s order to shut down the Chinese consulate, smoke was visible from within the confines of the facility, according to a Houston television station, as cited by The New York Times. Employees appeared to be dumping documents into flaming barrels.
According to Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, China will retaliate if the US does not “recorrect its mistakes.” China could take countermeasures such as shutting down the US consulate general in Hong Kong or elsewhere.
On Twitter, Global Times created a poll asking users which US consulate general in China is most likely to be closed. (Admittedly, we clicked Guangzhou just to access the survey results.)
Screengrab via Twitter
This latest move comes after a long line of back-and-forth restrictions between the two countries. Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times noted that these restrictions have included “Cold-War-like travel rules for diplomats” as well as requiring Chinese state news organizations to register as diplomatic entities in the US.
The Trump administration has even considered a travel ban on Chinese Communist Party members and their families – which would affect 270 million people.
Meanwhile, US journalists at multiple news outlets have been expelled from China in retaliation.
[Cover image via Pixabay]