In an unprecedented move since the reestablishment of diplomatic relations in 1979, on Tuesday the Trump administration ordered Chinese diplomats based out of its Houston consulate to shutter the building and vacate the premises in 72 hours.
Beijing replied that there would be retaliation for the move. The United States charges that the unusual order came only after they had observed “repeated violations of American Sovereignty,” according to a report in the New York Times.
The report said that the State Department explained that the order came in response to “repeated Chinese violations of American sovereignty, including massive illegal spying and influence operations.”
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the order showed that America would not tolerate what she charged was the “egregious behavior” of China any longer.
She continued, saying “The People’s Republic of China has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations throughout the United States against U.S. government officials and American citizens.” Ortagus added that the order would “protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”
The move comes just as tensions have sharply ramped up after repeated allegations on the part of the Trump administration that China had not acted swiftly enough to contain the coronavirus’ spread throughout the world.
The consulate’s closure, viewed as an extremely serious move, appears to be part of an overall campaign to allow the US to rein in the vast numbers of Chinese government officials, academics and others who have come to the US in recent years.
Several Chinese news organizations in the US have even been told to register as arms of diplomatic entities. In another broad stroke, the Trump administration is also mulling the imposition of a travel ban for all those individuals who belong to China’s Communist Party and their families, amounting to a total of 270 million people.
The New York Times report stated that the Trump administration has repeatedly accused China a number of times of stealing not only commercial, but military secrets as well. The report also noted that the Justice Department announced that a indictment will be forthcoming, accusing two Chinese hackers of trying to steal information regarding coronavirus vaccine research in the US.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin called for the administration to reverse the unprecedented decision. He was quoted in the New York Times as saying “Otherwise China will certainly make legitimate and necessary reactions.”
In a related development, US Senator and former Democratic Presidential nominee Tulsi Gabbard shared a video on her Twitter feed showing a suspicious fire that was set just outside the Chinese consulate in Houston yesterday morning.
This video shared with us by a viewer who lives next to the Consulate General of China in #Houston shows fire and activity in the courtyard of the building.
DETAILS SO FAR: https://t.co/2cOeKoap96 pic.twitter.com/0myxe6HIlC
— KPRC2Tulsi (@KPRC2Tulsi) July 22, 2020