China on Friday ordered the U.S. consulate in Chengdu to close just days amid rising diplomatic tensions between the two global economic powerhouses.
Days earlier, the U.S. ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to close after officials claimed it had been at the center of a major spying operation run by Beijing that has accelerated over the past six months.
“The measure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the United States,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.
“The current situation in Chinese-U.S. relations is not what China desires to see. The United States is responsible for all this,” he said. “We once again urge the United States to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track.”
Mr. Wang alleged that a number of consulate personnel had “interfered in China’s internal affairs and harmed China’s security interests,” and said that China had complained to U.S. officials about the issue.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been steadily rising following disputes over technology, human rights, and national security. The latest moves to close the consulates marks one of the most severe escalations in the brewing diplomatic war between the two countries.
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Chinese officials quickly condemned the U.S. order to close Beijing’s Houston consulate as “malicious slander.”
The State Department on Friday issued a warning to American personnel in China and said that U.S. citizens may be at “heightened risk of arbitrary detention.”
“U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to ‘state security,’” the department notice said.
It explained that American citizens could be penalized for “sending private electronic messages critical” of the Chinese government.
The U.S. has consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu and Shenyang.
At the height of the coronavirus outbreak in China, the U.S. in January closed its consulate in Wuhan and has since decided to not reopen the facility.
— This story is based on wire reports.
• Lauren Toms can be reached at email@example.com.
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