American flag lowered as US consulate in Chengdu prepares to shut

American flag lowered as US consulate in Chengdu prepares to shut

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Large crowds that had gathered outside the building over the weekend were moved back, as a heavy police presence surrounded the consulate, which Beijing ordered to shut on Friday in a tit-for-tat move.

Last week, the US government abruptly ordered the closure of China’s consulate in Houston, Texas, claiming the base had been involved in a larger Chinese espionage effort using diplomatic facilities around the US.

Over the weekend, hundreds of people gathered outside the US consulate in southwestern city of 16.5 million people, taking selfies and waving Chinese flags. On Saturday, the US insignia was taken down while on Sunday removal work began on a plaque outside the embassy, which is now effectively not operational.

A woman waves a Chinese flag in front of the US consulate in Chengdu, southwestern China.
A worker attempts to remove a plaque on the wall outside the US Consulate in Chengdu, southwestern China.

The Chinese government had given the Americans the same timeframe of 72 hours to close their Chengdu mission as Beijing had been afforded in Houston, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry saying in a statement that the US had “seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations.”

“The current situation between China and the United States is something China does not want to see, and the responsibility rests entirely with the United States,” the foreign ministry said in the statement.

Last Tuesday, Washington told China to “cease all operations and events” at its Houston facility, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry called an “unprecedented escalation” of ongoing tensions between the two countries.

As the deadline to close the Chinese diplomatic mission expired on Friday, US federal agents entered the compound of the Chinese consulate in Houston in black SUVs and white vans.
Relations between the US and China have rapidly deteriorated in the past two weeks, amid the reciprocal consulate closures and the guilty plea of a Singaporean national who admitted to spying for Beijing.
Policemen march in front of the US consulate in Chengdu, southwestern China's Sichuan province, on July 26.
Speaking at the Nixon Library in California on Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted what he said were decades of failed policy toward China.

“As President Trump has made very clear, we need a strategy that protects the American economy and indeed our way of life. The free world must triumph over this new tyranny,” Pompeo said.

“The truth is that our policies — and those of other free nations — resurrected China’s failing economy, only to see Beijing bite the international hands that were feeding it. We opened our arms to Chinese citizens, only to see the Chinese Communist Party exploit our free and open society.”

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