US consulate in Chengdu, China readies to shut down

BEIJING — The U.S. consulate in China’s southwestern city of Chengdu is preparing to close, after being ordered to shut by the Chinese government.

The Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, had closed earlier, on orders from the U.S. government.

Chinese media live coverage showed the sign on the U.S. consulate in Chengdu being removed Sunday.

The Chinese government had set the deadline for closure for Monday. In the last few days, trucks and buses have been carrying away the contents of the consulate. A crowd of media and onlookers gathered in front of the building to watch the evacuation. Media provided live coverage, and people took pictures.

The closures have increased friction between the two superpowers. The U.S. government on July 21 ordered China to close its consulate in Houston. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the building was being used as a base for spying and stealing intellectual property. In retaliation, China ordered the U.S. to close its consulate in Chengdu.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Sunday criticized the U.S. action on its consulate in Houston, saying it “is no different from burglary.”

The tit-for-tat closures have taken place amid worsening relationships over handling of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. government passing the Hong Kong Autonomy Act. The new law enables the U.S. to impose mandatory sanctions on individuals or companies that back efforts by China to restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy. The move is meant to push back against Beijing’s new security law for the city.

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