Beijing, July 24 (IANS) The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday ordered the closure of the US Consulate General in the south-western city of Chengdu as a retaliatory move against Washington’s decision to close the Asian giant’s mission in Houston.
In a statement, the Ministry also made specific requirements on the ceasing of all operations and events by the Consulate General, which was established in 1985 and currently has more than 200 staff, Xinhua news agency reported.
“The US’ move seriously breached international law, the basic norms of international relations, and the terms of the China-US Consular Convention. It gravely harmed China-US relations,” the statement said.
It justified China’s decision as “a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the US”.
“The current situation in China-US relations is not what China desires to see, and the US is responsible for all this.
“We once again urge the US to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track,” the statement added.
China gave the US till July 27 to close the consulate, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.
On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday ordered the closure of China’s mission in Houston, saying it was involved in stealing intellectual property, the BBC reported.
The administration gave China 72 hours to close the consulate “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.
The consulate is one of five in the US, not counting the embassy in Washington.
China’s move on Friday came hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hardened his tone further in a speech on Thursday at the library of former President Richard Nixon, whose 1972 Beijinf visit heralded a period of improved relations.
“Today, China is increasingly authoritarian at home, and more aggressive in its hostility to freedom everywhere else,” Pompeo said.
“The free world must triumph over this new tyranny.”
The decision to close the Houston mission came after a New York Post report said the city’s police had received reports that Chinese officials were burning documents at the Consulate on Tuesday evening.
A news reporter’s video showed several people surrounding multiple trash cans with documents on fire, in the consulate’s courtyard.
Houston firefighters and police, the New York Post said, responded to the fire at the Consulate General office but did not have the authority to access the building.
Responding to Tuesday’s move, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the reasons given by the US for closing the Consulate were “unbelievably ridiculous”, the BBC reported.
Hua urged the US to reverse its “erroneous decision”, or China would “react with firm countermeasures”.
The relationship between the US and China has been on a downward spiral ever since the Trump administration renegotiated new terms for bilateral trade with the Xi Jinping government.