Daily US Times: The US has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, by Friday. Beijing described the move as “political provocation”.
The US State Department said on Wednesday that the decision was taken “in order to protect American intellectual property”.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said it was “outrageous and unjustified”.
The State Department announcement came after unidentified individuals were filmed burning paper in bins in the building’s courtyard.
Tensions have been rising between China and the US for some time. President Donald Trump’s administration has clashed repeatedly with Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic and trade, as well as China’s imposition of a controversial new security law on Hong Kong.
Then on Tuesday, the US Department of Justice accused China of patronizing hackers who are targeting labs developing Covid-19 vaccines. Officials have charged two Chinese men who allegedly spied on US companies that are doing coronavirus research and got help from state agents for other thefts.
Why did the US say it was closing the consulate?
On Wednesday, shortly after Mr Wang spoke, the US State Department released a statement.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said: “We have directed the closure of PRC [People’s Republic of China] Consulate General Houston, in order to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information.”
The Chinese consulate in Houston is one of five in the US, not counting the embassy in Washington DC. It is not clear why this one was singled out.
Ms Ortagus added the US “will not tolerate China’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s theft of American jobs, unfair trade practices and other egregious behaviour”.
The State Department’s spokesman also pointed to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, under which states “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs” of a host country.
The State Department accused China of engaging “in massive illegal spying and influence operations” in a separate statement.
The indictment comes amid the US rolled a crackdown on Chinese cyber espionage.
It accused China of interfering in “domestic politics” as well as having “coerced our business leaders, threatened families of Chinese Americans residing in China, and more”.
China called the decision “an unprecedented escalation”, saying the US’s move violated international law. Mr Wang went on to say Washington had been “shifting the blame to China with stigmatisation and unwarranted attacks.”