BEIJING: The United States said that it has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston “to protect American intellectual property” and the private information of Americans.
China strongly condemned the move, the latest in a series of steps by the Trump administration as it ratchets up pressure on the world’s second-largest economy over trade, technology, human rights and security.
Firefighters responded to reports of papers being burned on the consulate grounds Tuesday night but were barred entry, according to Houston news media reports.
The U.S., in a brief statement, did not provide any details on why the consulate in Texas was targeted.
“The United States will not tolerate (China’s) violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated (its) unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior,” said the statement, which was attributed to State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.
The consulate was informed of the decision Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, calling it “an outrageous and unjustified move that will sabotage relations between the two countries.”
“The unilateral closure of China’s consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China,” Wang said at a daily news briefing in Beijing.
He warned of firm countermeasures if the U.S. does not reverse itself. Besides its embassy in Beijing, the U.S. has five consulates in mainland China, according to its website. They are in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Shenyang.
Houston media reports said authorities responded to reports of a fire at the Chinese Consulate. Witnesses said people were burning paper in what appeared to be trash cans, the Houston Chronicle reported, citing police.