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The scene outside the Chinese Consulate in Houston on night of July 21, 2020. KHOU-TV

US orders China to close its Houston consulate

China said Wednesday that the U.S. has ordered it to close its consulate in Houston in what an official called an outrageous and unjustified move that will sabotage China-U.S. relations.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin condemned the action, which comes amid rising tensions between the nations with the world’s two largest economies. He warned of firm countermeasures if the U.S. doesn’t reverse its decision.

“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,” Wang said at a daily news briefing.

The Reuters news agency cites a source with direct knowledge of the matter as saying Wednesday that Beijing is considering retaliating by ordering the U.S. to close its embassy in the central city of Wuhan.

State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement to CBS News that the administration ordered the closure “to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information.”

Ortagus said, “The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s (short for Peoples Republic of China) 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.”

A source told CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV the consulate would be evacuated by 4 p.m. Friday.

Firefighters responded to the consulate Tuesday evening after neighbors called 911 saying they saw someone burning documents in the courtyard, according to KHOU. But when firefighters arrived, they weren’t allowed onto the property.

In line with international agreements, the Houston Fire Department said it wouldn’t enter the premises without consent unless there was a threat to health and safety, which officials said there wasn’t.

The fire was out soon after, according to KHOU sources who arrived at the scene.

Houston police tweeted that they were also denied access to the property. The said officers saw smoke when they arrived.

First published on July 22, 2020 / 5:38 AM

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: CBS News
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