Videos appears to show Chinese officials burning documents at China’s consulate general in Houston on Tuesday hours after the Trump administration ordered the closure of the diplomatic compound.
The videos: Police and fire officials responded on Tuesday night to reports documents were being burned in the consulate’s courtyard, according to the Houston Police Department.
- A bystander told local NBC affiliate KPRC2 that “you could just smell the paper burning,” but that firefighters surrounding the building did not go inside.
- The State Department confirmed the consulate had been ordered to close “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” Bloomberg reported.
- Two Chinese hackers working for Beijing attempted to steal or stole data, some of it related to coronavirus research, from governments, companies and organizations in several Western nations, the Justice Department alleged on Tuesday.
Chinese backlash: Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday decried the closure as illegal and an “unprecedented escalation” after the State Department gave the consulate 72 hours to pack up.
- “China strongly condemns such an outrageous and unjustified move which will sabotage China-U.S. relations,” Wang said.
- “We urge the U.S. to immediately withdraw its erroneous decision. Otherwise China will make legitimate and necessary reactions.”
- The U.S. has five consulates in mainland China and one in Hong Kong.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican said on Wednesday — in an interview on Fox Business and later on Twitter — that the shuttering of the Chinese consulate in Houston was necessary.
- “It is the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States,” Rubio tweeted.
Trump v. Beijing: Long a vocal critic of China on trade and intellectual property theft, Trump has in recent weeks unleashed a wave of rhetorical and diplomatic punishment on America’s largest economic rival.
- The president has effectively cut off trade talks, sanctioned Chinese officials over their internment of Muslims and encroachment in Hong Kong, revealed plans to cancel visas for some Chinese students in the United States, restricted Chinese journalists and vowed retaliation for Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus.