US diplomats to leave Chengdu consulate in tit-for-tat closures

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EPA

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A man was seen working to remove the diplomatic plaque from a wall of the US consulate in Chengdu on Sunday


US diplomats must leave the US consulate in Chengdu, a city in southwest China, following Beijing’s decision to close the mission.

With just hours from the Monday morning deadline, staff could be seen carrying files and bags of trash.

Meanwhile, crowds of local residents gathered outside, with many Chinese flags and taking selfies.

China reacted to the closure of its US consulate in Houston, Texas, last week.

After the 72-hour deadline expired for Chinese diplomats to leave the Houston mission on Friday, reporters saw men who appeared to be US officials force a door into the premises.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington decided to act because Beijing was “stealing” intellectual property.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin responded by saying that the US decision was based on “a mishmash of anti-Chinese lies.”

Tensions have intensified between the two nuclear powers over a number of issues:

  • US President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly clashed in Beijing over trade and the coronavirus pandemic
  • Washington also condemned China’s imposition of controversial new security law in Hong Kong
  • Singaporean man pleaded guilty in US court last week to working as an agent for China
  • Also last week, four Chinese countries were indicted in another US visa fraud case for allegedly lying about their service in the Chinese military.

What’s the latest in Chengdu?

Chinese state media showed photos of trucks leaving the US consulate and workers removing diplomatic badges from the building.

Image copyright
AFP / Getty Images

Legend

Crowds of curious locals gathered outside the US diplomatic mission on Sunday


Dozens of Chinese police were deployed outside, urging onlookers to move on and trying to prevent provocation.

However, boos were heard when a bus with tinted windows left the building on Sunday, AFP news agency reports.

When Chinese diplomats left their mission in Houston for the last time, they were mocked by protesters.

The Chengdu Consulate – established in 1985 – represented American interests in a large area of ​​southwestern China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region, where there has been long-standing pressure for independence.

The majority of the more than 200 staff at the diplomatic mission had been hired locally.

With its growing industry and service sector, Chengdu is seen by the United States as offering export opportunities for agricultural products, cars and machinery.

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Media captionMen are filmed using a hose and closing garbage cans at the Chinese Consulate in Houston

After the mission closes, the United States will have four consulates in mainland China and an embassy in Beijing, the capital. It also has a consulate in Hong Kong, the former British colony.

China lost its mission in Houston last week, but still has four other consulates in the United States and an embassy in the capital, Washington DC.

Why are there tensions between China and the United States?

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Getty Images

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US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping


There are a number of things at stake. US officials have blamed China for the global spread of Covid-19. Specifically, President Trump has alleged, without evidence, that the virus originated from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.

And, in unsubstantiated remarks, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in March that the US military could have brought the virus to Wuhan.

The United States and China have also been locked in a tariff war since 2018.

  • The US-China trade war in 300 words

Mr Trump has long accused China of unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft, but in Beijing it feels like the United States is trying to curb its rise as a global economic power.

The United States has also imposed sanctions on Chinese politicians who it claims are responsible for human rights abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. China is accused of massive detentions, religious persecution, and forced sterilization of Uyghurs and others.

Beijing denies the allegations and has accused the United States of “flagrant interference” in its internal affairs.

A Hong Kong?

China’s imposition of a sweeping security law is also a source of tension with the US and UK, which ruled the territory until 1997.

In response, the United States last week revoked Hong Kong’s special trade status, which allowed it to avoid tariffs imposed on Chinese products by the United States.

  • New Chinese Law: Why is Hong Kong Worried?
  • Trump hits China with Hong Kong trade order

The United States and the United Kingdom see the Security Act as a threat to the freedoms Hong Kong enjoyed under a 1984 agreement between China and the United Kingdom – before sovereignty reverted to Beijing.

The UK has angered China by outlining a path to British citizenship for nearly three million Hong Kong residents.

China has responded by threatening to stop recognizing a type of British passport – BNO – held by large numbers of people living in Hong Kong.

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