US orders PRC to close Houston consulate

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY SPAT: Firefighters and police were called to the consulate building after reports that documents were being burned in trashcans in the courtyard

Taipei Times
Date: Jul 23, 2020

Photo: AP

The US yesterday ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, and accused it of increasing its spying operations, dramatically escalating diplomatic tensions between the feuding nations.

The announcement infuriated Beijing, which vowed to retaliate as the two nations squabble over a slew of issues ranging from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic — as well as China’s policies in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.

“We have directed the closure of PRC [People’s Republic of China] Consulate General Houston in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” US Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Denmark.

She added that under the Vienna Convention, states “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs” of the receiving state, but there were no further details about the reasons behind the decision.

In another statement, the department said that China has engaged in massive spying and influence operations throughout the US for years.

“These activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years,” it said.

Before the news emerged, firefighters and police on Tuesday were called to the consulate after reports that documents were being burned in trashcans in the courtyard.

The Houston Police Force Twitter feed said that smoke was observed, but officers “were not granted access to enter the building.”    [FULL  STORY]