US asked China to close Houston consulate: Report
The US government abruptly ordered China to close its consulate in Houston in an “unprecedented escalation,” the Foreign Ministry said, in the latest sign of deteriorating ties between the world’s biggest economies.
China said the move was unilaterally initiated by the U.S. and Beijing would “react with firm countermeasures” if the Trump administration doesn’t “revoke this erroneous decision.” It accused the U.S. of harassing diplomatic staff and intimidating Chinese students, confiscating personal electrical devices and detaining them without cause. Chinese diplomatic missions and personnel also recently received bomb and death threats, it added.
“China strongly condemns such an outrageous and unjustified move which will sabotage China-U.S. relations,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We urge the U.S. to immediately withdraw its erroneous decision. Otherwise China will make legitimate and necessary reactions.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what spurred the move by the U.S., which has clashed with China over everything from trade and 5G networks to territorial disputes and responsibility for the pandemic. The Justice Department on Tuesday accused two Chinese hackers of working for Beijing to steal or try to steal terabytes of data, including coronavirus research, from Western companies in 11 nations.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the statement, China said “infliltration and interference is never in the genes and tradition of China’s foreign policy,” without referring to anything specific.
On Tuesday night in Houston, police and firefighters descended on the consulate following witness reports that papers were being burned outside in open containers, the Houston Chronicle and two local TV stations reported, citing local police.
In videos posted online by local media outlets in Houston, fires could be seen in multiple containers, with smoke rising into the sky. TV stations KPRC and KHOU said firefighters were not allowed inside the complex, and KHOU said the fires were later extinguished. The Chronicle said no injuries were reported.
The Chronicle and both stations separately reported the consulate would be evicted on Friday at 4 p.m. local time, each citing unnamed sources.
On a day Lahore witnessed clashes between supporters of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and police, former Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Hafeez took to Twitter and slammed the Pakistani establishment over the shortage of fuel and cash, tagging prominent politicians in the country. Political and economic volatility has deepened in the nuclear-armed nation ahead of a likely announcement by the International Monetary Fund later in the day on whether it will resume a $6 billion rescue package.
China's People's Liberation Army on Wednesday said it has conducted a military exercise around Taiwan as a warning against its “collusive activities” with the United States, two days after President Joe Biden said Washington would get involved militarily if China were to try to take the self-ruled island by force. “This is a stern warning to the recent collusive activities by the US and Taiwan secessionists,” Senior a spokesperson of the Eastern Theatre Command, Colonel Shi Yi was quoted in Chinese state media as saying.
Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf supporters and the Lahore Police clashed on Wednesday as the former managed to push their way through the containers deployed on the streets and braved tear gas shelling after answering the ousted prime minister's call for a long march onto Islamabad.
Chinese President Xi Jinping defended China's record in a meeting with UN's top human rights official on Wednesday, saying there is no “flawless utopia” and criticised countries that lecture others on human rights and politicise the issue. Xi and Bachelet meeting comes in the backdrop of fresh allegations of systemic abuse carried out by the Chinese government against the minority Muslim UIghurs in Xinjiang. Beijing has denied the allegations.
Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has written to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to urge India to acquit Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik from all charges and ensure his immediate release from prison so that he can be reunited with his family.