In a significant development on Wednesday, the United States has ordered China to close down its consulate in Houston. Although the United States has several consulates in China, according to a source Beijing is considering shutting down the U.S. consulate in Wuhan, the state from which the coronavirus emerged.
Beijing has yet to officially respond to the move saying it has been given 72 hours to comply to the U.S. order. While it has condemned the move, it has threatened retaliation without spelling out that measure it might take.
Late on Tuesday, according to local media reports, documents were seen burning in a courtyard at the consulate building.
Relations between the two countries have taken a downward turn following the emergence of the coronavirus from China, which Beijing houses its only level 4 laboratory; China has also gone to great lengths to block an investigation into the source of the coronavirus pandemic which has ravaged global economies and killed millions of people across the globe. Apart from the coronavirus crisis, theft of alleged intellectual property by China-backed actors, along with commercial and military espionage and belligerent territorial claims with almost every neighbor have added to tensions.
China’s imposition of its draconian security law on Hong Kong has added to tensions between the two countries.
The U.S. Department of State has confirmed the U.S. decision to order China to close its Houston consulate.
The move has been made “in order to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information”, said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus in a statement.
“The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior,” she said using an acronym for China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.