China said on Wednesday (July 22) that the US has ordered it to close its consulate in Houston in what an official called an “outrageous and unjustified move that will sabotage China-US relations”.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin condemned the move, which comes amid a rise in tensions between the world’s two largest economies. He warned of firm countermeasures if the US does not reverse its decision.
“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,” Wang said at a daily news briefing.
There was no immediate confirmation or explanation from the US side.
Media reports from Houston said police personnel and firefighters had arrived at the consulate in response to complaints of a fire at the spot. Witnesses said people were burning paper in what appeared to be trash cans, the Houston Chronicle and two other TV channels reported, citing police.
According to Hindustan Times, local media outlets in Houston too shared videos on social media showing fires in multiple containers. Firefighters were not allowed inside the complex, according to TV stations KPRC and KHOU. The fires were extinguished soon after, the KHOU reported.
The Chronicle said no injuries were reported.
According to Hindustan Times, the Chinese foreign ministry also accused the US of harassing diplomatic staff, intimidating Chinese students, confiscating personal electrical devices, and detaining them without cause.
Chinese diplomatic missions and personnel also recently received bomb and death threats, the ministry added.
The Chronicle and the two news channels said the consulate would be evicted on Friday (July 24) at 4 PM local time, according to Hindustan Times.
The development comes amid heightened tensions between the two nations, which have been warring for the past few months over trade tariffs, introduction of the 5G network, and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic and who allegedly spread the virus.
(With inputs from agencies)