Who's next? US closing Chinese consulate worries people on both sides

By Li Qiao and Shan Jie Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/23 19:23:41

A security guard drives away from the Chinese Consulate General in Houston on Wednesday. Photo: AP

The US on Wednesday abruptly demanding China close its consulate in Houston, a city that Chinese people are familiar with for its NBA basketball team, has shocked many in the US and China, who are worried about what would be the next target of the Trump administration as leverage to further contain China.

Wan Yu (pseudonym), a 29-year-old Chinese PhD candidate studying in Houston, checked the return tickets back to China as soon as she heard the breaking news. A backup plan is necessary if further tensions occur, Wan told the Global Times on Wednesday.

She said it is US President Donald Trump's dirty trick of getting votes, worrying the prevalence of anti-China sentiment under such an irrational and unscientific administration will threaten her 1-year-old baby's safety in the US. The closure makes it inconvenient for Chinese parents in Houston applying for travel permit for their children. 

Wan had received anti-epidemic materials including masks, medicine and disinfectant wipes from the Chinese consulate during the pandemic in its early days. "Many Indian students envied us, as we can rely on the Consulate General and are cared by our home country," Wan said.

Wan's friend Lu Ai (pseudonym), another Chinese woman who has been working in Houston for four years and now a housewife, said that having a consulate in Houston is like her country is protecting people overseas, like a base camp providing spiritual support for Chinese citizens abroad. "We feel insecure as it was forced to close, as if the status and voice of Chinese will be threatened," said Lu.

Lu said she didn't experience any discrimination in Houston before. However, she worries this latest diplomatic issue would be a bad signal triggering anti-China sentiment in the US.

"The US government is terrible, as some politicians are only concerned with their political interest but not the fundamental interests of people," Lu told the Global Times, adding that "People already learned from the failure of anti-epidemic policy."

They don't care how this move will influence people of the two countries, she noted.

A Chinese working in Austin, Texas, in his 30s, who asked not to be named, was not surprised when he learned this news, as he said American politicians could do anything beyond morals for votes. He said he felt sorry for his American friends. "Their country is manipulated by selfish politicians," he said. 

His passport is about to expire and now there is no place to renew it.

Houston attracts a large number of Chinese people studying, working and living there for its developed petroleum and aviation industries. The closure of Chinese Consulate General sent shockwaves throughout the local Chinese community.

There are more than 400,000 Chinese citizens and overseas Chinese in Houston, according to the Chinese Consulate General in Houston.

Moreover, Chinese people generally have an emotional connection to Houston, as Chinese basketball star Yao Ming played in NBA's Houston Rockets for nine years. Many Chinese fans, whether they have ever been to the US or not, considered Houston as their basketball home city.

However, this link was broken in 2019 when Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey voiced his support for riots in Hong Kong, triggering outrage from Chinese netizens and sports fans.

The Chinese Consulate General in Houston opened in 1979, the year when China and the US built a diplomatic relationship. It covers a consular jurisdiction of eight southern states of the US and a self-governing commonwealth: Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Anxiety of people in China

The abrupt US decision has also affected those on the other side of the Pacific.

"I'm worried I won't be able to leave China and come back again due to the US making it harder for Americans to travel to China," Jack Campbell from Texas who lives in Beijing told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"Another concern is whether or not I will be able to easily find work in the US in the midst of a kind of new anti-China McCarthyism," said Campbell, an observer on China-US relations who has been posting articles with a more balanced, friendly view of China.

"I feel a lot of otherwise open-minded Americans are turned off from expressing empathy, appreciation, or merely interest for China," he said.

Beijing resident Yuan Qilin (pseudonym) is under the process of immigrating to the US to reunite with her husband's family in South Carolina. They handed in the documents before the Spring Festival and are waiting for the following steps, especially the interview in the US Consulate General in Guangzhou of South China's Guangdong Province.

But the process has lagged behind due to the novel coronavirus epidemic this year. Now what worries Yuan much more is the uncertainty of the policies affected by the nervous relations between the two countries.

Yuan had joined a chat group of about 100people who are applying for visas. Currently the processing work in US Consulate General in Guangzhou is normal. Several group members went for their interview on Thursday. Others have received passports or interview notices the same day.

"People are shocked by the news," Yuan told the Global Times. "This will definitely affect us." "Hopefully the relationship could be moderated. Nobody wants a split," she said.


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