UPDATE: US consulate in Chengdu given 72 hours to close: source

By GT staff reporters Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/24 11:59:14 Last Updated: 2020/7/24 21:50:14

US Consulate General in Chengdu Photo:VCG

China has ordered the US to shut its consulate in Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, in retaliation for the US asking to close China’s Consulate General in Houston, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday, which analysts have called “an equivalent and reciprocal countermeasure.”

The order by the Chinese side came after the US abruptly asked China on Tuesday to close its Consulate General in Houston within 72 hours, which is a unilateral political provocation by the US side against China and a grave violation of international law and the basic norms governing international relations, which seriously harms bilateral ties. China would take countermeasures that will cause the US “real pain,” according to observers.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday morning informed the US Embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the US Consulate General in Chengdu. The Ministry also made specific requirements on the ceasing of all operations and events by the Consulate General, the Foreign Ministry announced..

On Tuesday, the US unilaterally provoked the incident and suddenly demanded that China close its Consulate General in Houston, which severely violated international law and the basic norms of international relations as well as the relevant provisions of the China-US consular treaty, and severely damaged China-US relations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. The above-mentioned measures by China are a legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable actions of the US. They are in compliance with international law and basic norms of international relations, as well as diplomatic practices.

The current situation between China and the US is something China does not want to see, and the responsibility rests entirely with the US. We once again urge the US to immediately revoke the erroneous decision and create necessary conditions for the return of bilateral relations to normal, the ministry said. 

Infographic: Global Times

The Chinese side also gave the consulate 72 hours to close and notified the US side on Friday morning. Therefore, the US consulate in Chengdu will be closed on Monday morning, a source close to the matter told the Global Times.

The US consulate in Chengdu, covering consular affairs in several provinces and regions including Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, had attracted public attention for several occasions. It was opened in October 1985 by former US President George Bush, and had been besieged by crowds to protest the US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999. The consulate in 2012 also became a scene for the incident concerning Wang Lijun, former vice mayor and police chief of Southwest China’s Chongqing, who defected and entered the consulate but later left on his own volition. 

Some speculation had earlier emerged that China might close down US Consulate General in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, as retaliation for the closure of China’s Consulate General in Houston. However, that would be an underestimation of China’s will in taking “equivalent and reciprocal countermeasure,” according to observers. 

As part of staff had not returned to the Wuhan consulate, its closure would not be equivalent to the US’ bullying and extreme pressure tactics, and would be seen as a weak gesture to the US side.

Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times that choosing the US consulate in Chengdu is an equivalent and reciprocal countermeasure as the consulate covers the consular services among the Southwest region of China and its number of employees is almost equal to that of China’s consulate in Houston.

“The US is unlikely to make further provocations to close more Chinese diplomatic missions. Choosing the consulate in Houston could help the Trump administration distract the public’s attention of the worsening epidemic situation in Texas, a traditional ‘red state,’ which the Republican party can’t afford to lose,” he said.

But other Chinese consulates in the US are located in cities like New York and San Francisco, which are in the “blue states” that the Republican can’t win, so it would be meaningless for Trump to close more as it won’t help him win the election, Lü said.

Infographic: GT

If the US continues its crazy moves, China can play another card to retaliate; that is, expelling those so-called “diplomats” from the US who are actually CIA agents located in China, especially those in Hong Kong, Lü noted, adding that this could make the US really feel the pain as its intelligence networks in China, which it has spent decades trying to build, will be closed down. Therefore, it would be so unwise of the US to continue the fight as it will lose more than China. 

Posted in: POLITICS

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