China

Chinese authorities took possession of the US consulate in the south-western city of Chengdu on Monday, after consular staff met Beijing’s deadline to stop all operations and vacate.

Beijing gave a three-day deadline for the US to shutter the consulate after Washington closed China’s consulate in Houston, Texas, last week.

“We entered from the main entrance and took over fairly and honourably,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Arms Control said in a statement on the Weibo online platform.

The US flag had been lowered in the compound shortly after 6 am (2200 GMT Sunday) ahead of the 10 am deadline.

A day earlier, moving trucks and a coach were seen shuttling in and out of the compound as personnel cleared the premises.

China’s Houston consulate closed down on Friday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the Houston consulate “a hub of spying and intellectual property theft” that had directed efforts to steal US technology and trade secrets.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot called the closure in Houston a move to “protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson similarly said staff at the US Consulate General in Chengdu “were engaged in activities outside of their capacity, interfered in China’s internal affairs, and endangered China’s security and interests.”

Beijing’s foreign ministry called the closure of the Chengdu consulate a “legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable measures by the United States.”

After state department officials entered the Houston consulate on Friday following their eviction deadline, Beijing complained that the “forced entry” violated China’s national property and international law.

Officials prised open the back door after attempts at three other entrances failed.

The tit-for-tat closures have further ratcheted up tensions between the two countries, which were already fraught due to disagreements over ongoing trade disputes, the coronavirus pandemic, repression in China’s far-western Xinjiang region and Beijing’s moves to quash pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

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