China has officially shut the United States consulate in the Chinese city of Chengdu in retaliation to the closure of Beijing’s consulate in Houston.
On Tuesday the U.S. government accused China of working to steal intellectual property at their Houston consulate, giving them three days to close the operation down. Chinese officials called the move an “unprecedented escalation” and vowed retaliation.
The American flag over the building was lowered at dawn, according to Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV, and onlookers were moved back by police surrounding the consulate as it prepared to shut.
Beijing ordered the US embassy to close on Friday in a tit-for-tat move, after Washington instructed China’s consulate in Houston, Texas, to cease operations, claiming it had been involved in a US-wide Chinese espionage effort.
The Chinese government gave the Americans the same 72-hour time frame to close their Chengdu mission as Beijing had been given in Houston last week.
As that deadline expired, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Monday that the Chengdu consulate closed at 10 a.m. “Relevant Chinese authorities then entered from the main entrance and took over,” the ministry said in a statement posted on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
The United States has an embassy in Beijing and consulates in five other mainland cities — Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang and Wuhan. The consulate in Chengdu is responsible for monitoring the western provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet, two regions that have become at times sensitive as China faces international criticism and accusations of human rights abuses.
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