Washington closes Chinese consulate in Houston, citing espionage

(Washington) A dramatic turn in the Sino-American escalation: Washington has ordered Beijing to close its consulate in Houston under 56 hours, accused of being the “heart” of China's “spy ring” in the United States.

Francesco FONTEMAGGI with Laurie CHEN and Sébastien RICCI in Beijing

France Media Agency

The Chinese authorities immediately threatened “reprisals”, which suggests a further deterioration of the already extremely tense relations between the two great powers on several fronts, including the controversial law on national security in Hong Kong and the human rights situation in Xinjiang, northwest China.

The consulate was closed “in order to protect American intellectual property and American private information,” US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Vienna Convention says that diplomats must“ respect the laws and rules of the host country ”and“ have the duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of this State ””, she said. highlighted.

“Stolen Jobs”

American diplomacy added that the communist regime had in the past engaged in “massive espionage” in the United States and had “become involved in domestic politics”, had “exerted pressure on officials economic ”and“ threatened families of Chinese Americans residing in China ”.

While traveling to Denmark, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not want to go beyond these elliptical justifications.

But he once again denounced the “theft of intellectual property by the Chinese Communist Party” in the United States as in Europe.

“Hundreds of thousands of jobs” were “stolen by the Chinese Communist Party”, he insisted, citing the example of the indictment the day before by the American justice system of two Chinese people accused of computer attacks against companies engaged in the search for an anti-COVID vaccine – 10.

“President Trump said 'enough',” insisted Mike Pompeo, threatening new measures every time Beijing does not “behave” as desired by Washington.

For the chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio, the Chinese consulate in Houston is “the heart of the vast network of spies and influence operations of the Chinese Communist Party in the United States. “, And its closure should therefore have been decided” a long time ago “.

“The spies have 56 hours to leave or be arrested,” tweeted this close ally of President Trump.

According to several Houston media, firefighters were called Tuesday evening at the consulate for documents that were allegedly burned in the yard.

Local police confirmed on Twitter that smoke had been observed but that emergency services “were not allowed to enter” into the consulate compound.

“Scandalous and unwarranted action” 2020

China has five consulates in the United States. The one in Houston, Texas, was the first to open in 1979, the year China-US diplomatic relations were established.

Its closure constitutes “a political provocation launched unilaterally by the American side, which seriously violates international law”, denounced to the press a spokesman for Chinese diplomacy, Wang Wenbin.

“China strongly condemns this scandalous and unjustified action”, he added, threatening “reprisals”.

It was not immediately clear whether the closure of the Houston consulate was directly linked to the charges announced Tuesday by the US Department of Justice against Li Xiaoyu, 34 years, and Dong Jiazhi, 33 years, “Two Chinese hackers” who “worked with the Chinese Ministry of State Security”.

Beijing has brushed aside these accusations.

“The Chinese government is a fervent defender of cybersecurity and it has always opposed cyber attacks,” said Chinese diplomacy spokesman Wang Wenbin, calling on the United States to “immediately cease their slander and defamation ”against his country.

MM. Li and Dong, who have not been arrested, are believed to be in China.

The government of Donald Trump has adopted in recent months a very critical tone towards China, accused by the president of having concealed the extent of the spread of the new coronavirus when it appeared in the center of the country. .

In the midst of escalating tensions with Washington, China also warned its students in the United States on Wednesday – more than 300 00 0 – against “arbitrary interrogations”.