China on Friday ordered the closure of the U.S. consulate in the western city of Chengdu in apparent retaliation for the Trump administration closing China’s Houston consulate over accusations of espionage.
“The measure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the United States,” said a foreign ministry statement.
“The current situation in Chinese-U.S. relations is not what China desires to see. The United States is responsible for all this,” the ministry said. “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.”
The Trump administration says Chinese agents within the Texas consulate had been attempting to steal scientific data from facilities in the state, including the Texas A&M medical system.
“The U.S. accusations are groundless fabrications,” the Chinese Embassy in Washington said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
Beijing on Wednesday promised to retaliate over a U.S. order to close its Houston consulate by the end of the week, calling the decision an “unprecedented escalation.”
“China demands the U.S. revoke the wrong decision. If the U.S. went ahead, China would take necessary countermeasures,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
The consulate closures and spying accusations come amid heightened tensions between the two countries over trade and the coronavirus and Hong Kong.
The Trump administration has also put restrictions on visas for some Chinese journalists and canceled visas for Chinese graduate students with ties to military schools.
Just hours before China ordered the closure, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech, “If we want to have a free 21st century, and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done,” The Times reported.
After the order to close the Houston consulate, the State Department said the U.S. “will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior. President Trump insists on fairness and reciprocity in U.S.-China relations.”
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, a Chinese territory.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.