BEIJING: China on Saturday lodged a diplomatic protest with the US over the “forced entry” of American officials into the premises of the closed Chinese consulate in Houston and vowed to make a “necessary response” to Washington’s action.
US federal agents and law enforcement officers entered the Chinese consulate compound in Houston along with locksmiths after the mission was shut down on Friday.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it has expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the US law enforcement officers’ “forced entry” into the consulate and lodged a diplomatic protest.
“China will make a proper and necessary response in this regard,” it said.
In a retaliatory move, China has already ordered the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu in southwest China’s Sichuan province.
The Consulate in Houston is the building of the diplomatic consulate and is also China’s national property, the ministry said.
According to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the Sino-US Consular Treaty, the US must not infringe on the premises of the Chinese Consulate in Houston in any way, it said.
Chinese officials reportedly vacated the consulate on Friday afternoon after the US ordered its closure amid accusations of espionage, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The Trump administration accused Beijing of stealing intellectual property and claimed that the consulate in Houston was the “epicentre” of China’s research theft.
Vans bearing diplomatic plates departed the consulate as the 4 pm Friday deadline arrived.
At that point, federal agents checked the locked doors of the consulate and a locksmith was seen working to crack the lock on one door, the Post report said.
A CNN report also said that after the Chinese diplomatic staff vacated the building, a number of black SUVs, trucks, two white vans and a locksmith’s van entered the compound.
The Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, was opened in 1979.
Apart from now closed the Houston consulate, an embassy in Washington and an office at the United Nations, China maintained consulates in four US cities — Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.
Tensions between both the nations have escalated in recent months over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, China’s crackdown on its Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang and Beijing imposing a controversial national security law in Hong Kong.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has alleged that the Houston consulate of China was “a hub of spying and intellectual property theft”.
The US State Department said in a statement that the consulate was ordered to close “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”
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