U.S. Orders China To Close Houston Consulate By Friday
The United States has ordered the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas to close after Houston police and fire responded to a fire in the building Wednesday night where documents were reportedly being burned by Consulate employees.
“We have directed the closure of [People’s Republic of China] Consulate General Houston, in order to protect American intellectual property and American’s (sic) private information,” said State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus in a statement Wednesday, according to NPR.
A Houston resident, who lives within blocks of the Consulate, told this reporter Wednesday, “This happened in 2017 too,” adding that Wednesday’s fire took place in the same courtyard at the time and no one evacuated.
The fire Tuesday night was no different, she added, describing a “go-between” negotiator who kept exiting the consulate to speak with officials and entering back into the building.
“I see people in there all the time. And no one, no one ever came out of this building until this guy,” she explained.
“No one put out the fire. There was no ladder truck, there was no hose. It just kept burning.”
Fire officials and police never entered the building from what the resident saw. “I pulled up a chair and sat and watched it the entire time,” she said.
China’s Foreign Ministry received the notice Wednesday to vacate the building by July 24, NPR reported. Beijing, however, responded in condemnation, calling the move “an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China.”
The news comes amid rising tensions between the two countries that quickly escalated with the spread of the novel coronavirus earlier this year.