China tells US to close consulate amid growing diplomatic problems

World

A police officer stands guard outside the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China July 24, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BEIJING (News Nation) — Relations between two of the world’s largest economies are becoming diplomatically strained. China ordered the United States to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu on Friday, responding to a U.S. demand this week that China close its Houston consulate.

The order to close the consulate in Chengdu, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, was seen as roughly reciprocal in terms of scale and impact, continuing China’s recent practice of like-for-like responses to U.S. actions.

China had warned it would retaliate after it was unexpectedly given 72 hours – until Friday – to vacate its Houston consulate, and had urged the United States to reconsider.

“The U.S. move seriously breached international law, the basic norms of international relations, and the terms of the China-U.S. Consular Convention. It gravely harmed China-U.S. relations,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China informed the U.S. Embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu,” it said.

The U.S. Department of State declined to comment to News Nation.

Last week, the U.S. alleged that Chinese agents had tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The Chinese foreign ministry appealed to Washington to reverse its “wrong decision.”

The ministry on Thursday rejected the allegations as “malicious slander.” It warned the Houston consulate’s closure was “breaking down the bridge of friendship” between the two countries.

Also Friday, the U.S. State Department sent out a notice warning Americans in China of a “heightened risk of arbitrary detention.”

“U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to ‘state security,’” the notice said.

Americans may be detained or deported for “sending private electronic messages critical” of the Chinese government, it said. The notice gave no indication of what prompted the warning.

The United States has an embassy in Beijing and consulates in five other mainland cities — Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang and Wuhan. It also has a consulate in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory.

The consulate in Chengdu is responsible for monitoring Tibet and other areas in the southwest inhabited by non-ethnic Chinese minorities that are considered especially sensitive by Beijing.

Asian stock markets fell Friday on the news of the closure.

China’s market benchmark, the Shanghai Composite Index, lost 3.9%. Hong Kong’s main index declined 2.2%.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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