US move to shut down China’s Houston consulate sparks escalated tensions between Washington-Beijing
Diplomatic tensions have reached a new low, set to go spiraling down after Trump’s administration has shut down the Chinese Houston consulate citing protection of “American intellectual property and private information.” Beijing has described the move as a “political provocation.”
US Secretary Mike Pompeo has said that the action was taken by government because China has been “stealing intellectual property.” A Republican Senator said that the Houston consulate, which also took care od many southern American states was essentially an “espionage hub”.
China has condemned the closure as an “unprecedented” and “outrageous” escalation of already severed ties between the two nations, and has threatened of retaliation to this strongly politically driven motive.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a news briefing, “China strongly condemns such an outrageous and unjustified move, which will sabotage China-US relation.” He added, “We urge the US to immediately withdraw its erroneous decision, otherwise China will make legitimate and necessary reaction.”
Wednesday midnight fire services were called down to the Houston consulate after smoke was seen rising from the premises. US officials stated that staff on campus were burning and destroying the documents after they were given 72 hours to leave the US.
Tensions have been brewing between China and US for quite some time now over various issues. President Donald Trump and his administration has regularly collided and locked horns with Xi Jinping’s government over trade, coronavirus pandemic, and recent China’s imposition of the controversial security law on Hong Kong. The latest clash was witnessed on Tuesday as the US Department of Justice had accused Beijing of sponsoring hackers to target Covid-19 vaccines developing laboratories. In this relation two Chinese nationals have been charged for spying on US research companies with help from state agents.
Trump’s administration ordered closure of Chinese Houston consulate on Wednesday. State Secretary Pompeo on Wednesday said in Denmark that “Chinese Communist Party was stealing not just American intellectual property… but European intellectual property too… costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
“We are setting out clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave. And when they don’t, we are going to take actions that protect the American people, protect our security, and also protect our economy and jobs”, he further added.
Houston consulate is one of the five Chinese consulates in US, apart from the Washington DC embassy. The reason of being it singled out in recent development is not yet clear.
Acting Chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee Marco Rubio said, “It’s kind of the central node of a massive spy operation: commercial espionage, defence espionage, also influence agents to try to influence Congress. They use businessmen as fronts in many cases to try to influence members of Congress and other political leaders at the state and local level. And so its long overdue that it’d be closed.”
The decision of consulate closure came a day after two Chinese nationals were accused by US of “trying to steal Covid-19 vaccine research”.