U.S. Orders China to Close Consulate in Houston

What it means for Hong Kong as US revokes its special trade status

China says the US 'abruptly demanded' the closure of its consulate in Houston

Donald Trump refused to rule out closing more Chinese embassies.

Hu Xijin, the editor of the Communist Party's Global Times newspaper had said that the United States has given China 72 hours to vacate the Houston Consulate. "I guess they were burning documents, or burning papers, and I wonder what that's all about".

Hours before the administration made public its order on Wednesday, consulate employees were seen starting fires in a courtyard of the Houston building, prompting police officers and firefighters to rush to the area.

On Wednesday's "MSNBC Live", Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) praised the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston and warned companies that deciding to "sacrifice our values and principles to try to get access to the Chinese market is going to come back and bite them".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a regular media briefing in Beijing, July 22, 2020.

The US side has been attacking China's political system, harassing Chinese diplomatic staff in the US for no reason, intimidating and interrogating Chinese students in the US, and sometimes even seizing their electronic equipment or detaining them for no good reason, he said.

Tensions between the United States and China have continued to rise following the forced closure by Washington of Beijing's consulate in Houston.

China warned Thursday that it would be forced to respond to the us move, which had "severely harmed" relations.

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Why it matters: The move further escalates already heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, exacerbated by stalling trade talks and China's crackdown on Hong Kong and the subsequent US response with sanctions. "Otherwise China will make legitimate and necessary reactions", the foreign ministry said.

The official China Daily described the closure of the consulate as "a new gambit in the US administration's bid to paint China as a malevolent actor on the world stage, and thus make it an outlaw to the worldwide community".

Wang noted that the USA side, last October and in June this year, placed unwarranted limitations on Chinese diplomatic staff and it opened diplomatic parcels and searched the property of Chinese staff several times.

Beijing has responded by banning several US lawmakers, including Sens. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the claims "are completely unlawful".

"President Trump has said "enough". "The Chinese don't give us almost that kind of access in China, and we don't kind of do anything about it".

The standoff in San Francisco comes at the same time the U.S. ordered the closure of China's Houston consulate, on grounds of involvement in theft of "American intellectual property and private information".

The State Department said China has engaged in massive spying and influence operations throughout the United States for years.

"These activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years", it said.

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A Chinese researcher at the University of California at Davis who was charged with lying about her military service has taken shelter at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, according to court filings.

The office covers eight southern USA states - including Texas and Florida.

But such US accusations were "groundless fabrications", said the Chinese embassy.

The U.S. has withdrawn Hong Kong's special trade status and imposed visa restrictions on several Chinese Communist Party officials, which the Chinese government calls "interference in domestic affairs".

Besides its embassy in Beijing, the USA has five consulates in mainland China, according to its website.

Asian markets were mixed Thursday as investors juggled hopes for a new stimulus deal in Washington with concerns about the virus and another flare-up between China and the United States.

Washington has also infuriated Beijing by banning telecom giant Huawei and seeking the extradition from Canada of top company executive Meng Wanzhou.

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