Amid rising tensions between the US and China, and in response to the closing of Chinese consulate in Houston last week, a US consulate was closed in Chinese city of Chengdu.
Before a 72-hour deadline expired, American staff were seen leaving the building on Monday. The plaque outside the consulate was later removed and the American flag was lowered.
Chinese foreign ministry stated that Chinese staff took over the building after the deadline. Shortly after, a crowd of people gathered outside waving Chinese flags and taking pictures.
US allegations of espionage
Last Tuesday, Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas was closed after allegations of espionage. US officials later told reporters that staff at the Chinese consulate “were directly involved in communications with researchers and guided them on what information to collect”.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry called the move an “unprecedented escalation” of ongoing tensions between the two countries.
In the past two weeks, relations between the US and China were further frayed amid the reciprocal closures of consulates and the guilty plea of Singaporean national who admitted of spying on the US for Beijing.
Indeed, tensions have been escalating between the two countries over a number of other issues such as clashes between the Trump administration and Beijing over trade and the handling of the coronavirus, Washington’s denunciation of new security law imposed on Hong Kong, the US’s accusations of China’s “intellectual property theft” and espionage, and allegations of China’s abuse against the Uighur minority.
How important was the Chengdu consulate?
The Chengdu consulate was established in 1985 and represented US interests over a vast area of south-western China, including the autonomous region of Tibet, where there has been long-running pressure for independence.
Chengdu is considered an important opportunity provider for US exports of agricultural products, cars and machinery.
The US State Department said in a statement: “We are disappointed by the Chinese Communist Party’s decision and will strive to continue our outreach to the people in this important region through our other posts in China,”
The US Mission in China posted a video on Twitter on Monday morning featuring images of the Chengdu consulate being opened by then-Vice President George Bush in 1985, before listing the areas covered by the diplomatic mission, such as Tibet.
“Today, we bid farewell to the US Consulate General in Chengdu. We will miss you forever,” the mission’s official post said.
After the closure of the Chengdu consulate, the United States now has an embassy in Beijing and four consulates in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Wuhan and Shenyang.
Sources: CNN, BBC news, Euronews
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