BEIJING: China said Friday (Jul 24) it had revoked the license for the US consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu, days after Washington ordered the closure of China’s Houston consulate.
The tit-for-tat move is a “legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable measures by the United States”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China 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,” it said.
“The current situation in China-US relations is not what China desires to see, and the US is responsible for all this.”
China also urged the US again to backtrack and “create the necessary conditions for bilateral relations to return to normal”.
Earlier this week, the US gave China 72 hours to close its consulate in Houston amid accusations of spying, marking a dramatic deterioration in relations between the world’s two biggest economies.
The US State Department said the Chinese mission in Houston was closed “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.
China said in response then that the US’ move had “severely harmed” relations and warned it “must” retaliate, without initially detailing what it would do.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also said then that the US allegations of spying were “malicious slander”.
“China must make a necessary response and safeguard its legitimate rights,” he said.
“This is tearing down the friendly bridge between the people of China and the US,” he added.
The US has an embassy in Beijing as well as five consulates in mainland China and one in Hong Kong.
The Chengdu consulate was established in 1985, and has around 200 staff members, with about 150 locally hired Chinese employees, according to its website.
It has been the site of diplomatic drama in past years.
In 2013, China demanded the US provide an explanation for a spying programme after news reports said a top-secret map leaked by fugitive intelligence analyst Edward Snowden showed US surveillance facilities at embassies and consulates worldwide – with the Chengdu consulate among them.
The Chengdu mission was also where senior Chinese official Wang Lijun fled in 2012 from his powerful boss Bo Xilai, who was then head of the nearby metropolis Chongqing.
In recent days, Washington and Beijing have been crossing swords over a slew of issues ranging from trade to the coronavrius pandemic and China’s policies on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio earlier called China’s Houston consulate the “central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies and influence operations in the United States”.
Michael McCaul, Republican Leader on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the consulate was the “epicentre” of Chinese efforts to steal “sensitive information to build up their military”.