Beijing Takes Over U.S. Chengdu Consulate After Forced Closure
(Bloomberg) -- Chinese authorities have taken over the U.S. consulate in Chengdu following its closure, the latest historic milestone marking the deterioration in relations between Washington and Beijing.
The U.S. lowered its flag over the American consulate in the southwest Chinese city earlier Monday, less than three days after the U.S. government forced their Chinese counterparts out of their mission in Houston. The security cordon around the consulate, which has ebbed and flowed since China announced its decision Friday to expel the diplomats, tightened Monday morning, with police preventing pedestrians from getting within a block of the facility.
Chinese authorities entered the main gate of the consulate, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in statement Monday. The consulate was closed at 10 a.m., according to China’s request.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily briefing in Beijing later Monday that authorities’ entrance into the compoundwas a “legitimate and necessary response to what the U.S. did.”
The closure of the U.S. mission after 35 years drew a steady stream of onlookers throughout the weekend, as people filmed moving vans and consulate personnel pass in and out of the compound gates. The two consulates are the most tangible casualties yet of one of the worst disputes between the U.S. and China since two sides formally established relations in 1979.
In a farewell slideshow posted on Chinese social media, the U.S. consulate in Chengdu said locally posted diplomats would cherish the memory of working to promote mutual understanding between the American people and those of Chongqing, Guizhou, Sichuan, Tibet and Yunnan.
State broadcaster China Global Television Network reported over the weekend that some Chinese staff were still negotiating their severance packages with the consulate after being laid off. Some U.S. employees “will not leave so quickly just yet because there is still much work to be done,” CGTN said, citing people it didn’t identify.
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper, said on Weibo that some Chinese staff at the consulate were insufficiently compensated after being laid off, without specifying where he got the information.
The Trump administration’s decision to shutter the Houston mission followed years of frustration about what it said was criminal and covert activity directed by Beijing to steal trade secrets and carry out malign influence operations across the U.S. While two Chinese citizens were convicted in the past year for trying to steal trade secrets in America’s energy capital, U.S. administration officials told reporters Friday that activity conducted through the Houston consulate represented the “tip of the iceberg.”
On Saturday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it lodged “solemn representations” with the U.S. over the forced entry into the Houston consulate. Beijing will make a legitimate and necessary response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang said in a statement posted on its website.
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