In a tit for tat, China has expelled American diplomatic staff as they were ordered to leave the Chengdu consulate following United States call to shut the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas last week. Before the expiration of 72-hour deadline on Monday, the staffers were seen leaving the compound of consulate, a plaque was being detached from a building wall and US flag was taken down.
China’s foreign ministry said Chinese staff took over the building after the departure of American diplomats. As the building was vacated, local crowd with Chinese flags in their hands gathered outside the building and took selfies. Beijing signaled the closure after US decision to shut Chinese consulate in Houston amid spying accusations. Tensions have been escalating between the two nations over a range of issues of late.
WH administration has repeatedly exchanged blows with Chinese authorities over trade and COVID-19. US has also taken a hostile stand against Beijing over their passing of draconian security law in Hong Kong. A Singaporean national was convicted in a US court for operating as a Chinese agent in United States. Also last week, 4 Chinese citizens were found guilty of US visa fraud for allegedly misinforming about their links with Chinese military.
Chinese state media broadcasted pictures of buses leaving the US consulate, and workers removing diplomatic insignia from a wall. The state-owned CCTV on Monday morning posted showing United States flag being lowered. Scores of Chinese law enforcement personnel were seen outside the building advising onlookers to move on. However, boos were heard when a bus with tinted windows left the compound of the consulate on Sunday, AFP reports.
When Chinese diplomats abandoned their mission in Houston last week, they also witnessed a similar farewell by protesters gathered outside the building. The Chengdu consulate set up in 1985 was active for US interests in south-western China which also includes autonomous region of Tibet, which has long struggled for Independence from mainland China. The majority of the diplomatic mission’s 200+ staffers were local Chinese.
Chengdu with its industry and expanding services sector is seen by the United States as an export base for cars, machinery and agricultural products. After the latest ban, the US has now 4 consulates in mainland China and an embassy in Beijing. Another consulate is active in Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned under the Chinese rule in 1997.
Beijing’s diplomatic issues had to abandon their work in Houston, TX last week when the 72-hour deadline for the diplomats expired on Friday. After the packing of its Houston mission, Chinese interests in the US is now represented through four remaining consulates in the US and an embassy in Washington DC.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talking about the Houston closure, said Washington had to act because the Chinese housed there were stealing intellectual property of the United Sates. Wang Wenbin, a spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Washington’s act was nothing but “a hodgepodge of anti-Chinese lies”.
The conflict between the two states is consistently increasing with every passing day. US officials have blamed Beijing for intentionally concealing the information about COVID-19 pandemic and went as far as blaming China for producing the novel coronavirus in a Wuhan lab.
China in March responding to the allegations came up with its own share of blame-game and in unfounded remarks suggested that US military might have exported the disease to Wuhan in order to cripple booming Chinese economy. This was preceded by the tariffs war between the two the nations started and regressed by Mr. Trump in 2018 and 2020 only to be reimpose after COVID-19.
The Republican has long accused Beijing of unfair trading practices and intellectual property theft but China perceives US tactics as a way to curtail its economic supremacy. Before losing its diplomatic mission in Houston, Chinese politicians were also subjected to US sanctions for their role in atrocities committed against Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang. Beijing on the other hand has warned US for meddling in its internal affairs.