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Chinese Consulate in Houston Shut Down

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Flags of USA and China Painted on Cracked Wall | Chinese Consulate in Houston Shut Down | Featured

The Trump Administration gave China some sudden news on Wednesday: pack up and get out. The government issued an order for the Chinese consulate in Houston to shut down. The order also called for the people working there to vacate the premises within 72 hours. It was one of Communist China’s oldest and most important in the United States. The US government gave the order as they alleged that the Chinese military used the building as a spy’s nest

The spokeswoman for the State Department, Morgan Ortagus, said the government closed the Houston consulate “in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.

Meanwhile, Mike Pompeo was asked in a news briefing in Copenhagen about the unusual move. He declined to explain in detail why the government made the unusual move. However, “President Trump has said ‘Enough.’ We’re not going to allow this to continue to happen,” Pompeo told reporters. He was referring to the Chinese theft of American secrets. 

After the order was made, Chinese diplomats were filmed scorching thousands of documents in metal trash bins. Though interpreted as a sign of wrongdoing, the move is standard when any country has to hastily abandon a consulate.

Applause for the Move

Many American politicians and commentators applauded the decision.

Senator Marco Rubio called the consulate “a massive spy center,” affirming that “forcing it to close is long overdue”. Rubio is the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He went on to say that the consulate is “the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States. … This needed to happen.”

Security officials, lawmakers, and academic leaders on the subject all agree that China used the Houston consulate to gather sensitive information. The targets include both government agencies and private corporations.

China Responds

China responded to the order as one would expect: with anger and indignation. The government called it an “outrageous and unjustified move”. Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin demanded that the US “revoke the wrong decision”, or “China would take the necessary countermeasures.”

What such countermeasures would look like is uncertain at this point. A possible response could be to close the US consulate in Hong Kong. This would also punish the US for stripping Hong Kong of its special status as an autonomous zone last week.

Critics Question Political Motives

Critics of the move have questioned why the administration suddenly expelled the diplomats, given that intellectual property theft is nothing new in the China-US relationship. Media outlets opposed to the Trump Administration have furthered the idea that the expulsion is more about the election in November than it is about national security.

CNN, one of the Trump Administration’s most devoted media adversaries, suggested that a bigger reason for the move exists than boosting Trump’s “sagging poll numbers”. The network said that if intellectual property were really the issue, the San Francisco Office, lying right next to Silicon Valley, would have been a more appropriate target for closure.

Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, was more circumspect. He told reporters, “I do not believe for an instant that this action will stop that threat [of maligned espionage], but hopefully the Chinese Communist Party will take it as a signal that their actions have consequences.”

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