The Chinese Consulate in Houston has been invaded by US officials shortly after it officially closed for business.
The consulate, which was supposed to shut down Donald Trump on Wednesday, was reportedly a hot bed of spies and used to steal medical research.
Beijing was told that the consulate should cease operations on Friday.
On Friday afternoon, hours after the consulate was officially closed, a group of men who appeared to be American officials were seen forcing them to open a back door to the consulate.
The back door of the Chinese consulate in Houston was forced to open on Friday afternoon
Teams of apparently American officials entered the empty building
According to a Reuters witness, consulate staff had left the building shortly after 4:00 pm and left it in vehicles. Then the back door was pushed open.
Chinese authorities have called on Washington to overturn its decision, saying that the closure of the diplomatic office “breaks down the friendship bridge.”
In response, China ordered the closure of the US Consulate in Chengdu – also within 72 hours.
The US has an embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang, Wuhan and Hong Kong.
The Chinese consulate is one of five in the US, not including the embassy in Washington DC.
Three consular vehicles will leave the Consulate General of China late Friday
The Chinese consulate in Houston closed its doors on Friday, after an announcement Wednesday
On Tuesday, hours before the administration released its order to leave the building, the consulate employees were there seen starting fires in a courtyard of the Houston building, causing police officers and firefighters to run to the area.
Fire personnel were denied access to the compound.
Small fires were lit in the courtyard of the building on Tuesday evening
Firemen arriving on site were told they could not come in to extinguish the fire
Sources on Wednesday NBC said that the consulate was known as a center for Chinese espionage.
Several U.S. officials told the network that the Houston Consulate has long been used by the Chinese government to steal valuable medical research and was involved in attempts to infiltrate the oil and natural gas industry.
They said the consulate was well-fortified, hardened to prevent U.S. surveillance, and was a high-tech communications center to coordinate and conduct various espionage operations.
Democrat Sen. Mark Warner for Virginia and a ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told Katy Tur of NBC News that he would not go into the specific information behind Wednesday’s closure.
“But I can tell you that for the past two years, I and other members of the intelligence committee have held secret briefings with business leaders and academic leaders about the Chinese communist party’s joint efforts to steal our intellectual property, to steal it from companies, to steal it from universities, to be more wary, “he said.
Warner suggested the action was spearheaded by the FBI and its intelligence.
China has five consulates in the United States. The photo in Houston, in the photo, closed on Friday
The State Department said China was conducting “massive illegal espionage and influence operations.”
Told David R. Stilwell, who oversees the East Department’s policies for East Asia and the Pacific The New York Times that the Houston consulate had a history of “subversive behavior.”
He said the consulate was the epicenter of investigative theft in the United States.
For example, Stilwell said that the Consul General, the best Chinese official there, and two other diplomats have recently been caught false identification to escort Chinese travelers to the gate area of a charter flight from George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Stilwell said some of the attempted scientific theft attempts in China in the United States had accelerated in the past six months and may have been related to efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus – although again he did not present any evidence.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been a leader in pushing hard-line policies towards China aggressively, said at a press conference in Copenhagen on Wednesday that the Trump administration ‘outlined clear expectations of how the Chinese Communist Party is going’ behave.’
He warned that the United States would “take measures” to protect its interests.
Vans were pictured on Wednesday outside the consulate in Houston
Much of the interest in Houston has focused on the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In April 2019, three out of five scientists identified by the federal authorities as involved in attempts to steal U.S. research from MD Anderson on behalf of China were ousted by the institution.
A fourth scientist quit before the study was completed, and the fifth was disciplined by the center.
Trump said at a news conference on Wednesday evening that “it is always possible” that his government would close more Chinese missions.
The consulate’s closure marks a further break in relations between the world’s two largest economies and is a significant shift from just six months ago, when the countries signed a trade deal and Trump bragged that the relationship between the US and China ‘ might be the best it has been ‘in a long, long time. ‘
Trump said six months ago that the relationship with China was excellent
Now relations between Trump and China’s leader Xi Jinping are at a low level
In addition to closing the consulate, the US is now also considering banning Chinese mobile apps such as Tik Tok, removing Chinese technology from the power grid and sanctioning Communist Party officials for interning Muslims and effectively ending a security law Hong Kong’s independent legal status.
Trump has also halted further trade talks and threatened to punish China for saying they “could have stopped the pandemic.”
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the State Department, described the US’s reasons for closing the consulate as “incredibly ridiculous.”
She urged the US to reverse its “wrong decision” or China would “respond with strong countermeasures.”
“While Chinese diplomats promote mutual understanding and friendship, the United States Embassy in China is publicly attacking China’s political system,” she said.
“As a result of smears and hatred sparked by the US government, the Chinese embassy has received bombs and death threats.”