The State Department has ordered the closing of China's consulate in Houston, citing concerns over the privacy and intellectual property of Americans.

KPRC-TV reports that Houston police and firefighters were dispatched to the Consulate General of China Tuesday night after reports of a fire in the courtyard. It appeared that documents were being burned.



China's foreign ministry has condemned the action and accused U.S. officials of opening Chinese diplomatic pouches without permission on multiple occasions, confiscating Chinese diplomatic items, and imposing unfair restrictions on diplomats.

The State Department accuses China of violating American sovereignty, intimidating Americans, engaging in unfair trade practices, and intellectual property theft.

It's unclear what prompted the closure of this particular consulate. KHOU-TV reports that the State Department suspects hackers of working with the Chinese government to probe for network vulnerabilities and target firms working on COVID-19 vaccines. They're accused of stealing trade secrets and stealing other information considered of importance to the Chinese government.

According to KHOU, an unnamed source reports that everyone inside the consulate is scheduled to be evicted by 4 PM Friday.

CNBC reports that Beijing has vowed retaliation for the closure. It's not yet clear what that would look like.

According to its website, the consulate in Houston was opened in 1979 when the U.S. and China established diplomatic relations. It covers eight states - Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida - as well as Puerto Rico.

KTRK-TV's Miya Shay interviewed a Chinese diplomat about the closure Wednesday. The video was not available for embedding at the time of this article's publication, but you can watch it here.

 

Enter your number to get our free mobile app