The U.S. has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, according to the Department of State.
Spokesperson for the department, Ms Morgan Ortagus, said in a statement that the order was aimed at protecting American “intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.
“The U.S. will not tolerate the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people.
“This is just as we have not also tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behaviour,” Ortagus said.
The U.S. has always accused China of intellectual property theft, cyber espionage and interference in operations in the country.
The move has further worsened the sour bilateral relations between the economic powers as China has vowed retaliation.
Reacting, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, described it an “unprecedented escalation” in U.S.’ “recent actions against China”.
“The unilateral closure of China’s consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China.
“We urge the U.S. to immediately revoke this erroneous decision. Should it insist on going down this wrong path, China will react with firm countermeasures,” Wenbin said.
He accused the U.S. government of harassing Chinese diplomats and consular staff members.
The spokesman alleged that the U.S. had also been “intimidating and interrogating Chinese students and confiscating their personal electrical devices, even detaining them”.
Wenbin added that the U.S. government had interfered with China’s diplomatic missions, including intercepting diplomatic pouches and confiscating Chinese items for “official use”.
Local media reports indicate that trouble started on Tuesday evening when fire broke out at the Chinese consulate in Houston.
But when first responders arrived they were denied access into the premises, the reports quoted Houston police as saying.
Wenbin reportedly downplayed the incident, saying the consulate was operating normally.