U.S. consulate in Chengdu closes amid fraying relations with China

U.S. consulate in Chengdu closes amid fraying relations with China
A man attempts to remove a plaque from the front of the US consulate in Chengdu, China, on Sunday. Photo by Alex/Plavevski/EPA-EFE

July 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. consulate in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu officially closed Monday morning amid worsening relations between Washington and Beijing.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that the U.S. consulate, which opened in October of 1985, closed at 10 a.m. "in accordance with Chinese requirements."


Chinese authorities then entered the facility through the main entrance "and took over," the one-sentence statement read.

The U.S. flag at the compound was seen being lowered at 6:18 a.m. in video broadcast by state-run CGTN. On Sunday, a worker was seen prying a plaque from the building.

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Beijing had given Washington 72 hours on Friday to close its mission in Chengdu -- the same amount of time Washington had given it to vacate its consulate in Houston.

The United States had ordered China out earlier last week, accusing Beijing of using the facility as a hub for spying and stealing intellectual property, accusations the Asian nation has denied.

U.S. authorities entered the facility Friday afternoon after the Chinese officials had already left.

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In retaliation, China ordered the United States out of its Chengdu compound.

On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters during a regular press conference that Beijing was in its right to demand the United States to leave in response to Washington's "unilateral provocation."


He also accused staff at the U.S. consulate of having "engaged in activities inconsistent with their capacities" with intentions to interfere in China's internal affairs.

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When asked to clarify the type of activities they were engaged in, Wang replied: "The U.S. knows this very well."

Relations between Beijing and Washington have continued to fray over the past year amid a protracted trade war and U.S. moves to punish China over its human rights abuses against protesters in Hong Kong and Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. The Trump administration has also blamed China for attempting to cover up its initial outbreak of the coronavirus and labeled some bureaus of Chinese-state run news organizations as foreign missions.

China has repeatedly balked at such accusations, demanding that the United States stop meddling in its internal affairs and threatening to impose countermeasures, some of which it has followed through on.

U.S. federal officials on Friday also arrested Juan Tang who had taken refuge in the Chinese consulate of San Francisco after the Department of Justice announced charges against her for lying on her visa application concerning her connection to the People's Liberation Army.

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