“The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior. President Trump insists on fairness and reciprocity in U.S.-China relations,” Ortagus said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.
“We have directed the closure of PRC consulate general Houston, in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”
Ortagus did not offer further details, but pointed to a pair of statements from the Vienna Convention which mandate diplomats to “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state” and “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state.”
China called the closure “an unprecedented escalation” and said it would retaliate if the United States did not revoke the order.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the United States gave it three days to close the consulate.
“The unilateral closure of China’s consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
“We urge the U.S. to immediately revoke this erroneous decision. Should it insist on going down this wrong path, China will react with firm countermeasures.”
Wang said the consulate is operating normally. He did not respond to questions about reports of documents being burned in the courtyard of the consulate. A video sent to a local news station and posted on social media showed several open fire pits in the courtyard and what appear to be consulate staff.
“It appears to be open burning in a container within the courtyard of the Chinese consulate facility. It does not appear to be an unconfined fire but we have not been allowed access,” Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Pena told KTRK.
“We are standing by and monitoring.”
Houston police told FOX 26 that staff there were burning documents because they are being evicted from the building.
The closure of the consulate comes on the heels of an indictment of two Chinese nationals for a decade-long cyber espionage campaign in which they were accused of stealing information on weapons designs, drug information, software source code, and personal data. The indictment is the latest in a vast, nationwide law enforcement campaign to counter the theft of U.S. intellectual property and other aspects of infiltration by the Chinese Communist Party.
Reuters contributed to this report.