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China “sets to shut US consulate” in tit-for-tat move

08:51 | 24/07/2020

The US consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu would be the target for China’s retaliation following the forced closure of its diplomatic facility in Houston.

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china sets to shut us consulate in tit for tat move
The US consulate in Chengdu, southwestern China. (Photo: AFP)

The US consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu would be the target for China’s retaliation following the forced closure of its diplomatic facility in Houston on July 22, South China Morning Post cited a source as saying.

Washington maintains five consulates on the Chinese mainland – in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, Chengdu and Wuhan – as well as a consulate general for Hong Kong and Macau.

The US consulate in Chengdu opened in 1985 and is strategically important because it covers the country’s southwestern region, including the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet autonomous region and Chongqing.

It is still unclear which consulate China could close

china sets to shut us consulate in tit for tat move
 (Photo: AFP)

Earlier, Reuters reported that China is considering ordering the closure of the US consulate in the central city of Wuhan.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but at a media briefing earlier on June 22 warned of possible retaliation over the US decision.

The US embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, Editor-in-Chief of China’s Global Times Hu Xijin said “I believe if China decides to close a US consulate in China as a tit-for-tat retaliation, it won't choose the Wuhan.”

Such a choice will be too much to the US advantage, he said, further explaining that the US abrupt decision to order China to close its consulate in Houston within 72 hours is extremely rude. It has made China's evacuation very troublesome. By contrast, the US side has been ready to leave Wuhan. It will feel less painful than what the Chinese diplomats have felt.

Therefore, if the Chinese side wants to retaliate, it's very likely it will jump out of the battlefield preset by the US. It will choose a consulate that will surprise the US and hurt it more. In other words, the option should cause as much trouble to the US as the US decision has caused to China,” Hu believed.

china sets to shut us consulate in tit for tat move
Global Times readers voted for the closure of the US consulate general for Hong Kong and Macau. Photo: Dickson Lee

Meanwhile, readers of Global Times said Beijing should close the US consulate for Hong Kong and Macau if it wants to retaliate for the closure of its mission in Houston.

More than 65 percent of people who took part in the online poll voted for the US consulate in the former British colony, while the US missions in Guangzhou and Chengdu got just 10 and 7 percent of the vote respectively.

The newspaper staged the vote after China’s foreign ministry condemned the US for ordering the closure of the consulate general in the Texan city and urged it to immediately correct its mistake.

In a separate poll by news portal Guancha, 66 percent of 83,000 respondents voted to close the US consulate in Hong Kong and Macau, followed by Guangzhou with 18 per cent and Chengdu with 7 per cent.

Observers said it was unlikely Beijing would close the US consulate in Hong Kong, but its presence at the top of the two polls was indicative of the anger felt by some mainland Chinese internet users who believed America had supported the recent protests in the city, South China Morning Post said.

China vows to react with firm countermeasures

On July 22, the US-China tension escalated as the US ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas. The Chinese consulate had been given 72 hours to cease all activities and events before shutting down.

The US State Department said on the day that the Chinese mission in Houston was being closed “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”

President Donald Trump said in answer to a question at a news briefing it was “always possible” other Chinese missions could be closed too.

“We thought there was a fire in one that we did close,” Trump said. “I guess they were burning documents, or burning papers, and I wonder what that’s all about.” Reuters reported.

On July 21 evening, smoke was reported to be seen in the courtyard outside the consulate. Houston local media shared a video of officials inside the consulate who appeared to be burning documents.

china sets to shut us consulate in tit for tat move
The Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas. Photo: Telegraph.

China on July 22 strongly condemned the US request to close the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, saying the move was a political provocation unilaterally initiated against China by the US side, Xinhua reported.

"China urges the U.S. side to immediately revoke the wrong decision, or China will definitely make legitimate and necessary reactions," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference.

According to the spokesperson, 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.

"We urge the U.S. side to immediately withdraw this erroneous decision. Should it insist on going down this wrong path, China will react with firm countermeasures," Wang said./.

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Rosy Huong