The US yesterday ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, and accused it of increasing its spying operations, dramatically escalating diplomatic tensions between the feuding nations.
The announcement infuriated Beijing, which vowed to retaliate as the two nations squabble over a slew of issues ranging from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic — as well as China’s policies in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.
“We have directed the closure of PRC [People’s Republic of China] Consulate General Houston in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” US Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Denmark.
She added that under the Vienna Convention, states “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs” of the receiving state, but there were no further details about the reasons behind the decision.
In another statement, the department said that China has engaged in massive spying and influence operations throughout the US for years.
“These activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years,” it said.
Before the news emerged, firefighters and police on Tuesday were called to the consulate after reports that documents were being burned in trashcans in the courtyard.
The Houston Police Force Twitter feed said that smoke was observed, but officers “were not granted access to enter the building.”
In Beijing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said that China was told that the consulate would have to close, calling it an “outrageous and unjustified move which will sabotage China-US relations.”
“China urges the US to immediately withdraw its wrong decision, or China will definitely take a proper and necessary response,” Wang said at a news conference. “It is a political provocation unilaterally launched by the US side, which seriously violates international law ... and the bilateral consular agreement between China and the US.”
The consulate in Houston was opened in 1979 and it covers eight southern US states, including Texas and Florida. There are five Chinese consulates in the US, as well as an embassy in Washington.
China’s state-run Global Times launched a poll on Twitter in English asking people to vote for which US consulate in China should be closed in response, including the ones in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
The US has an embassy in Beijing and five consulates in China, as well as one in Hong Kong.
SECRET OUT: Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung yesterday accidentally revealed that the infections occurred at the ministry’s Taoyuan General Hospital The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported the fifth COVID-19 case in a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital, where four other medical workers were confirmed to have been infected over the past week. The latest case is a nurse who had tested negative on Tuesday last week, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, told a news conference. However, on Thursday, she developed symptoms, such as nasal congestion and a cough, and a second test yesterday found that she was infected, Chen said. She is the head nurse of a ward where two
VIGILANCE: While two of the cases are family members of a nurse, there is no sign of community spread and the source of infection is identifiable, the CECC said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported four new domestic COVID-19 cases associated with a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital. Since the first case was identified on Tuesday last week, five healthcare workers — two doctors and three nurses — at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taoyuan General Hospital have tested positive for the virus. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that two of the four new cases are the husband and daughter of a nurse (case No. 863) who had earlier been confirmed to have COVID-19. The husband (case No. 864)
Don Quijote, the biggest discount store in Japan, is opening its first store in Taiwan today. The three-story Don Don Donki store in Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) area, which operates 24 hours a day, has already created 400 jobs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said in a press release. Many Taiwanese, including Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊), consider a trip to Don Quijote an essential stop in Japan. “I have been to Don Quijote at least 10 times myself,” Huang said yesterday at a news conference announcing the store’s opening. “They are rendering an important service, because we cannot travel
INCURSION: After 13 PLA aircraft flew into Taiwan’s ADIZ, the US Department of State said that China should rather ‘engage in meaningful dialogue’ with Taiwan US President Joe Biden’s administration on Saturday urged China to stop placing military pressure on Taiwan, while calling on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to engage in peaceful dialogue. The statement by the US Department of State was issued after 13 Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Saturday, the highest number observed in a single day this year, the Ministry of National Defense said. The air force scrambled fighter jets to monitor the Chinese aircraft, issuing radio warnings and mobilizing air defense assets until the planes left the ADIZ. The US “notes