U.S. officials forced open the doors of the Chinese consulate in Houston on Friday and took over the building shortly after Chinese authorities left the premises on the orders of the Trump administration.
Federal officials and local law enforcement surrounded the Houston facility on Friday afternoon as Chinese officials left the building which the Trump administration said was a center of Chinese Communist Party spy activity .
Forty minutes after the 4 p.m. deportation deadline expired, US officials broke into a backdoor at the consulate and a man suspected of being a State Department official paved the way for the take control, reported the Houston Chronicle.
Photographs show federal officials and a locksmith trying to find their way into the liberated Chinese Consulate General. US officials had tried three other entrances but could not enter them. Security teams with the US State Department emblems on their shirts stood guard. The Houston Chronicle reported that the local fire department also entered the building.
On Tuesday evening, hours after the Trump administration announced its directive to leave the Chinese, Houston firefighters responded to fires in the building’s yard – an apparent effort to destroy documents. Chinese authorities have refused to allow first responders to enter to put out the fires, Fox 26 reported in Houston.
CHINA THREATENED WITH RETALIATIONS AFTER THE CLOSURE OF THE CONSULATE
Throughout Friday morning, consulate workers were seen loading two trucks and U-transport vehicles and throwing garbage bags into a nearby dumpster in an attempt to meet the 4 p.m. eviction deadline in the city. United States, the Chronicle reported.
“We can confirm that the PRC Consulate General in Houston is closed,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News.
After Chinese officials packed their bags and left, American teams began to force their way in. After two hours of entry, government officials boarded a van and drove away, leaving Houston police and security teams behind at the scene, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The United States alleged the consulate was a nest of Chinese spies trying to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and the Anderson MD Cancer Center at the University of Texas at Houston .
RUBIO: THE CHINESE CONSULATE IN HOUSTON WAS “MASSIVE SPY CENTER”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week called the Houston complex “a hub for espionage and intellectual property theft.” Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Said the consulate was a “massive spy center [and] forcing it to close is long overdue. ”
China has called the allegations a “malicious slander” and responded by ordering the United States to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu, in western China.
CHINA ORDERS US TO CLOSE CHENGDU CONSULATE IN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO HOUSTON ARREST ORDER
US officials were seen packing and leaving the Chengdu consulate on Saturday as thousands gathered to watch Americans forced out on orders from Beijing.
The South China Morning Post reported that three trucks and a bus were seen entering and exiting the US compound as other workers left on foot with their arms full of boxes and files. Reuters reported that the U.S. consulate emblem had been removed and security was tight outside the facility for the move into the tit-for-tat consulate closures.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.