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China Tells US To Close Consulate as World Heavyweights Trade Blows

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China ordered the United States on Friday to close its consulate in the western city of Chengdu, ratcheting up a diplomatic conflict at a time when relations have sunk to their lowest level in decades.

The move was a response to the Trump administration’s order this week for Beijing to close its consulate in Houston after Washington accused Chinese agents of trying to steal data in Texas.

Chinese-U.S. relations have soured as China cracks down on freedoms in Hong Kong and carries out human rights abuses against Chinese Muslims.

“The measure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the United States,” according to a foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin.

“The current situation in Chinese-U.S. relations is not what China desires to see. The United States is responsible for all this,” Wang said.

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“We once again urge the United States to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track.”

Wang said some consulate personnel “interfered in China’s internal affairs and harmed China’s security interests” but gave no details. He said Beijing complained “many times” to Washington.

Also Friday, the U.S. State Department sent out a notice warning Americans in China of a “heightened risk of arbitrary detention.”

“U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to ‘state security,’” the notice said.

Are you concerned about the escalating tensions between the US and China?

Americans may be detained or deported for “sending private electronic messages critical” of the Chinese government, it said.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours. It alleged Chinese agents tried to steal data from facilities including the Texas A&M medical system.

The ministry on Thursday rejected the allegations as “malicious slander.” It warned the Houston consulate’s closure was “breaking down the bridge of friendship” between the two countries.

The United States has an embassy in Beijing and consulates in five other mainland cities — Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang and Wuhan. It also has a consulate in Hong Kong.

The consulate in Chengdu is responsible for monitoring Tibet and other areas in the southwest inhabited by Chinese minorities.

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Asian stock markets fell Friday after news of the closure.

“Alongside the eviction of the Houston Chinese Consulate, the risk of the U.S.-China conflict escalating into a ‘Cold War’ is worrying,” Hayaki Narita of Mizuho Bank said in a report.

In March, American reporters for The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal were expelled from China in response to the Trump administration’s decision to limit the number of U.S. visas for Chinese employees of state media.

On Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department said it believes the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco is harboring a Chinese researcher, Tang Juan, who is accused of lying about her background in the Communist Party’s military wing on a visa application.

The department announced criminal charges of visa fraud against Tang and three other Chinese researchers. It said Tang lied on a visa application last October as she made plans to work at the University of California, Davis, and again during an FBI interview months later.

U.S. officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have stepped up accusations of technology theft. In a speech on Thursday, Pompeo said some Chinese “come here to steal our intellectual property and to take this back to their country.”


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